Robert J. Ursano, M.D. is Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland. He is Director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress and the Editor of Psychiatry, the distinguished journal of interpersonal and biological processes, founded by Harry Stack Sullivan.
Dr. Ursano was educated at the University of Notre Dame and Yale University School of Medicine and did his psychiatric training at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center and Yale University. Dr. Ursano graduated from the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute in 1986 and is a member of the teaching faculty of the Institute. Dr. Ursano served as the Department of Defense representative to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health. He is a Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Psychiatrists, and the American College of Psychoanalysts.
Dr. Ursano was the first Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster. Through his work with the Committee, the American Psychiatric Association established a collaborative relationship with the Red Cross, the Bruno Lima Award to recognize contributors to psychiatric care in times of disaster, and the Eric Lindemann Grant to support disaster services. This work greatly aided the integration of psychiatry and public health in times of disaster and terrorism. Dr. Ursano was an invited participant to the White House Mental Health Conference in 1999. He has received the Department of Defense Humanitarian Service Award and the highest award of the International Traumatic Stress Society, The Lifetime Achievement Award, for “outstanding and fundamental contributions to understanding traumatic stress.” He is the recipient of the William C. Porter Award from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.
Dr Ursano is a member of the Advisory Board of the National Partnership for Workplace Mental Health (American Psychiatric Association); the White Paper Panel on Bioterrorism and Health Care, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations; the Scientific Advisory Board on Bioterrorism of SAMSHA (HHS), Center for Mental Health Services; the Advisory Board of the Center on Terrorism of the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine; the National Academies of Science, Institute of Medicine, Committee on Psychological Responses to Terrorism; and the National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Mental Health Surveillance After Terrorist Attack.
Dr. Ursano has over 200 publications. He is co-author or editor of seven books. Dr. Ursano is widely published in the areas of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the psychological effects of terrorism, bioterrorism, traumatic events and disasters and combat. He and his team have served as consultants and completed studies on numerous disasters, disaster rescue workers, motor vehicle accident victims, family violence, and Viet Nam, Desert Storm and Gulf War veterans. His research group completed the follow-up studies of the USAF Vietnam era prisoners of war, identifying the critical role of degree of exposure to outcome, resiliency, and the development of psychiatric disease in those with no known risk factors. More recently, he was part of the design of the repatriation of the Desert Storm prisoners of war. His work on disaster first responders is noted for the focus on public health needs. His group has studied the psychiatric responses of individuals to disasters and to small-scale traumatic events including motor vehicle collisions in order to better understand the human trauma response and its mechanisms of disease and recovery.
Dr. Ursano and his group are at the forefront of public health policy planning for terrorism, and bioterrorism in particular. Their work has been widely cited in government planning and Institute of Medicine, National Academies of Sciences reports addressing these issues. He was a national consultant for planning clinical care responses and research programs following the September 11th terrorist attacks, providing consultation to New York State Governor’s Office, New York City Mayor’s Office, Department of HHS, National Capital response teams and the Department of Defense Pentagon response groups. His group developed educational materials that were some of the most widely disseminated throughout the nation to assist populations exposed to the September 11 attack. Dr. Ursano’s research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, SAMSHA, CDC, NIOSH, the Sloan Foundation, the United States Army, the United States Air Force, and other national foundations and agencies.