Public Health News
Falk College, REU Program Host Discussion Series for PTSD Awareness Month in June
To educate the local community about issues related to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Syracuse University’s Falk College, is offering a discussion series during the month of June, which is designated as National PTSD Awareness Month. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events, such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault.
The discussion series to raise public awareness of PTSD and its effective treatments is free and open to the public. It takes place in conjunction with the Trauma Research Education for Undergraduates program, a joint effort by Syracuse University, SUNY Upstate Medical University and SUNY Oswego to improve access to research experiences for groups typically underrepresented in research.
The project, “Training Diverse Undergraduate Teams of Veterans and Non-Veterans to Conduct Trauma Research with Veterans,” is directed by Brooks B. Gump, Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health and co-directed by professor Karen Wolford, who also coordinates the interdisciplinary graduate certificate program in trauma studies at SUNY Oswego.
The discussion series includes:
Monday, June 3 at 1:30, Falk 335
Thom deLara, Professor of Practice and Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy at Syracuse University “Systems Theory, Trauma and Research”
Friday, June 7 at 1:30 pm, Falk 200
Kyle Possemato, clinical research psychologist, Syracuse VA Center for Integrated Healthcare, “Clinical Research with Military Veterans with PTSD and Substance Abuse”
Wednesday, June 12 at 1:30, Falk 335
Roland Van Deusen MSW ’67, G’75, U.S. Navy veteran and retired psychiatric social worker and drug counselor, “Searching for Ways to Reduce Veteran Suicide”
Tuesday, June 18 at 1:30 pm, Falk 335
Scott Aubin, U.S. Air Force veteran, PTSD awareness instructor, “Dealing with unrecognized PTSD”
Supported by a National Science Foundation Research Education for Undergraduates grant and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), this REU program spans one year, including an intensive six-week summer program in June. This program provides research training to increase skills in conducting trauma research while increasing a student’s ability to gain admission to competitive graduate programs.
“Through a competitive national review process, we have selected a group of student-Veterans and traditional students to complete this research training this summer,” says Wolford. “The students will be paired on teams with mentors to research PTSD and will later present their research at national conferences”.
“As part of this research training, we invite guest speakers who have expertise in the area of PTSD to inform our research trainees on cutting edge developments on traumatic stress research. We open these expert talks to the community as part of the June Posttraumatic Stress awareness month, which is an ongoing national effort to educate about PTSD,” Wolford adds.
For more information about the speakers or REU program, contact Moise Laub at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veterans, health and society
A recent edition of WCNY’s Connect New York, “Beyond PTSD: Veterans, Health & Society,” interviewed visiting teaching professor Kenneth Marfilius. The session, led by broadcast journalist Susan Arbetter, focused on the mental health challenges of veterans. Besides Dr. Marfilius, experts included Derek Coy, a Veterans’ Health Officer with the New York State Health Foundation, Melissa Spicer, President, CEO and Co-Founder of Clear Path for Veterans, and Dr. Tanya Bowen, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the Syracuse VA Medical Center.
Active veterans often do not seek help because they fear a mental health diagnosis that could lead to a Fit for Duty examination and possibly to a discharge. Active duty mental health therapists can also have a difficult job of balancing the needs of the military and the mission as well as those of the individual on active duty service. These challenges can lead individuals on active duty to not speak up when they have a problem. Sometimes the feeling of not being able to talk about mental health carries over into their civil lives once they are out of the service.
While active duty, Marfilius served in the U.S. Air Force Biomedical Science Corps in multiple roles: active duty clinical social worker, mental health therapist, family advocacy officer in charge, and as manager of the alcohol and drug prevention and treatment program. He was commissioned in 2013 and was discharged in 2016 having obtained the rank of captain. At the Barksdale Air Force Base, Marfilius served in a variety of mental health roles related to sexual assault prevention and response, suicide prevention, and traumatic stress. Marfilius has also worked for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at the Syracuse VA Medical Center in the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program.
Community groups are key in engaging veteran populations and providing a sense of belonging and purpose. One example of this is the Clear Path K-9 program, which has helped to shed light on the importance of animal-assisted intervention for health. Veterans dealing with depression, anxiety and chronic health issues sometimes have a hard time acknowledging the need for help and can be mistrustful of the system depending on their experiences. During the WCNY edition, Melissa Spicer explained that Clear Path was founded on building trust within the veteran’s population. The organization originally started with a K-9 service dog program.
The K-9 Dogs2Vets program, provides emotional support to veterans with post-traumatic stress, military sexual trauma, or physical impairments by establishing a reliable relationship between them and a canine companion. Dogs are selected from shelters and matched with veterans based on specific needs and interests; some veterans bring their own dog.
The program is getting results. Veterans have become less isolated and more interactive, less hypervigilant and more physically active. The program has witnessed increases and reemergence of sense of humor, decreased levels of anxiety, increases in levels of trust and higher levels of confidence among participants. Participants have to problem solve and make important decisions with respect to their canine partners, and this spills over into decision making in other aspects of their lives.
Falk College’s Dessa Bergen-Cico and Brooks Gump, professors of public health and Yvonne Smith, assistant professor of social Work have all worked with Clear Path’s Dogs2Vets program doing research that seeks to quantify the gains, measuring things like post-traumatic stress, quality of life, and negative thoughts among participants in the program. Initial results of the program assessment looked good, including a marked decrease in PTSD symptoms and negative thoughts and increased quality-of-life scores—the opposite of outcomes observed in a control group waiting to enroll in Dogs2Vets.
Further research has reported significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, as well as reductions in perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgement, and significant increases in self-compassion when comparing the veterans that participated in the Dogs2Vets program over a 12-month period to veterans that were on the waiting list to receive a dog during that time period.
Falk College has been committed to helping veterans through research and educational opportunities:
The Undergraduate Trauma Research Training program is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Education for Undergraduates (REU) opportunity directed by Brooks B. Gump, a professor of Public Health in Falk College. This program brings together veterans and non-veterans in a safe environment to pursue trauma research activities.
The program, now in its eighth year, draws on personal experiences of veterans who understand the nature and context of traumatic events. The program has many successful stories to share that has impacted the lives of veterans and their families.
Falk College supports many other active research projects and has many veteran’s students currently getting an education. If you are a veteran or individual interested in joining an educational program doing research with the veteran population, reach out to our Admissions team to find opportunities that fit your passions.
Falk College’s many academic programs focus on touching the lives of individuals and making an impact within our community.
Congratulations 2019 Falk Student Research Celebration Winners
Falk College congratulates the following winners of the 2019 Falk Student Research Celebration:
Name: Bridget Clark
Kelly Brown, BS; Heather Brubacker, MS, Dietetic Intern; Laura Brown, MS, RD; Baylee Carroll, BS, Dietetic Intern; Elizabeth Gardner; April Hill; Sarah Mihalko, BS; Katie Obojkovits, BS, Dietetic Intern; Madeline Peck; Tanya Horacek, PhD, RD, Professor; Syracuse University, Syracuse NY.
Program/Major: Nutrition Science
Faculty Research Mentor: Tanya Horacek
Title: Process Evaluation of the Healthy Campus Environmental Audits
Name: Olivia Cullen
Madeline Peck; Tanya Horacek, PhD, RD, Professor; Syracuse University, Syracuse NY.
Program/Major: Nutrition Science
Faculty Research Mentor: Tanya Horacek
Title: Assessing Food Insecurity Rates and Effects on a Sample of Undergraduate Students
Name: CB Garrett
Program/Major: Sport Analytics
Faculty Research Mentor: Rodney Paul
Title: Impact of Birthplace on Player Performance in Different Weather Conditions
Name: Jennifer Guzzy
Program/Major: Master of Social Work (MSW)
Faculty Research Mentor: Ryan Heath
Title: Extracurriculars and Teachers as a Substitute for Parents: Do they support strong academic outcomes in students without parental involvement?
Name: Madeline Hilton
Program/Major: MSPH Global Health
Faculty Research Mentor: David Larsen
Title: Indoor Residual Spray Campaigns in Community Protection Against Malaria
Name: Ying Zhang
Program/Major: Human Development and Family Science
Faculty Research Mentor: Rachel Razza
Title: Positive Development in Adolescence: the Reciprocal Relationships Between Facets of Self-Compassion and Self-Regulation
Kmush receives Johns Hopkins Thesis Research Publication Award
Brittany Kmush, PhD, received a 2018 Thesis Research Publication Award from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health for her dissertation entitled, “Risk factors for antibody loss after Hepatitis E virus natural infection and vaccination.” Dr. Kmush received both a PhD and a master of science in infectious disease epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. She holds a bachelor of science in biochemistry from the University of Rochester.
Dr. Kmush is an assistant professor in Falk College’s Department of Public Health at Syracuse University. Her areas of specialization include epidemiology, global health, infectious diseases, vaccines, nutrition, immunology and environmental exposures particularly within the context of risks for infectious diseases, and Hepatitis E virus.
In addition to a series of graduate research assistantships at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Kmush was a student investigator at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, Dhaka, Bangladesh and the National Institute for Diagnosis and Vaccine Development in Infectious Diseases, School of Public Health, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China where she Implemented a study examining the persistence of antibodies after hepatitis E virus infection. Her professional portfolio includes participation on numerous research grants, including an award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where she was a student investigator on the project, “Determinants of Immunological Persistence of Hepatitis E Virus Antibodies.” The purpose of the study was to determine antibody persistence after Hepatitis e virus and vaccination in South Asia.
Ryan Patel’s journey of discovery
Public Health senior Ryan Patel was the focus of Syracuse University’s “Be Orange” campaign this Spring 2019. Ryan is a double major—a B.S. in public health and a B.A.in biology—and a dedicated student ambassador with his sights set on medical school. As a University 100 Student Ambassador, Forever Orange Student Alumni Council (FOSAC) member, and volunteer for Syracuse’s Veterans Administration Medical Center, Crouse Hospital’s Emergency Department, Syracuse City School District’s Refugee Assistance program and Vera House, Ryan’s life at Syracuse University has been busy and full yet richly fulfilling.
Ryan mentions having a transformative Syracuse University Abroad experience in South Africa, where he took part in a public health project educating local teenagers about drug abuse. “Syracuse drew out so many of my passions and gave me outlets, creative spaces, programs and other opportunities to express them,“ he says. “It has led me down pathways I never expected.”
Ryan genuinely loves the culture he has found at Syracuse, and says it inspires him to push as hard as he can to achieve his dream of becoming an emergency room physician. “I am grateful for all the privileges and opportunities I’ve had here.”
Interested in learning more about Public Health and the exciting careers and opportunities available? View our public health academic programs page for more information.
2019 Falk Student Research Celebration Takes Place March 26-29
Falk students are invited to submit posters for completed or in-progress empirical, exploratory, policy analytic or hypothesis-driven research projects using qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods for display, judging, and awards in the 2019 Falk Student Research Celebration March 26-29. The multi-day event will highlight Falk students’ research collaborations and their dedication to advancing research knowledge.
Poster entry forms are due March 7 and poster submissions are due March 21. Posters will be on display beginning March 26 near the second floor student lounge and the Falk Café on 2 in the Falk Complex, with judging and awards taking place March 27. Students will present their posters from 12 to 1 p.m. on March 27 and 28.
The Falk College Research Center promotes a robust, collaborative research community in which students play an active role. At Falk, graduate and undergraduate students have the opportunity to work directly with faculty to collect data, analyze findings and draw conclusions on relevant topics surrounding public health, food studies, nutrition, sport management, human development and family science, social work, and marriage and family therapy.
“Conducting research as a student has many benefits, including building a strong relationship with Falk faculty members, improving writing and statistical analysis skills, and creating connections both on and off campus,” says instructor Jessica Redmond. “Because much of the research in Falk College has real-world implications, we want students to be able to share their findings publicly, and the Falk Student Research Celebration is the perfect opportunity to do so.”
“The student research days is a great showcase of the work our students are doing to understand the world and the human condition,” says assistant professor David Larsen. “It’s always fun to see the new ideas that our students have, and how they are seeking to improve the world we live in.”
Assistant professor Bhavneet Walia agrees. “It’s a great way to quench your curiosity,” she says. “Come see what our students are up to at the Falk Student Research Celebration.”
Winners of the 2018 Falk Student Research Celebration, held March 27-30, 2018, included research in a wide range of topics, such as maternal health, accessibility, and PTSD.
For more information about the 2019 Falk Student Research Celebration, contact Amy Dumas email@example.com at the Falk Research Center.
Research training program for veterans now accepting applications
To improve access to undergraduate research experiences in the area of trauma for groups typically underrepresented in this research, including veterans, a collaborative venture between Syracuse University’s Falk College, SUNY Oswego, and SUNY Upstate Medical University is now recruiting students for its 2019 program May 20-June 27, 2019 on the Syracuse campus.
The Undergraduate Trauma Research Training program is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Education for Undergraduates (REU) opportunity directed by Brooks B. Gump, Ph.D., M.P.H., Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health, and co-directed by Karen Wolford, Ph.D., Professor Department of Psychology and Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program in Trauma Studies at SUNY Oswego and includes other faculty from these institutions as well as SUNY Upstate Medical University. This program brings together veterans and non-veterans in a safe environment to pursue trauma research activities.
This six-week immersion program involves coursework, mentored student-faculty interactions, and the development of a research project. Participating students receive a $3,000 stipend for attending the summer session. Room and board are provided free of charge, as needed.
Ten student-veterans and traditional students completed the 2018 Undergraduate Trauma Research Training program, where they attended seminars on research methods and statistics, neurobiological, psychological, and physiological aspects of trauma, and research ethics as well as weekly self-care lessons and graduate school application workshops.
The program, now in its eighth year, draws on personal experiences of veterans who understand the nature and context of traumatic events. By gaining a scientific understanding of trauma, students who complete the program gain essential tools they can use to improve the quality of life for themselves and others, including veterans. Read more about one REU participant’s experience here.
The program is purposefully structured to span one full year. Following the summer program, students continue their research under the mentorship of REU faculty during the Fall semester. Finally, students are expected to present their research at a national conference in Spring, 2020. The travel and registration expense for the conference is provided to the student through this program.
For more information about the program, and to submit application for it, visit the Syracuse University REU website or contact Ivan Castro at firstname.lastname@example.org. The application deadline is March 1, 2019.
Falk researchers measure effect of dog ownership, training on PTSD symptoms among veterans
Falk College faculty in public health and social work are researchers in a new integrative health study that measures the effects of owning and training a therapy dog on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans. Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, “Dog Ownership and Training Reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Increases Self-Compassion Among Veterans: Results of a Longitudinal Control Study” is coauthored by Dessa Bergen-Cico, PhD, Yvonne Smith, PhD, Collin Gooley, and Brooks Gump, PhD at Syracuse University; Karen Wolford, PhD at SUNY Oswego, and; Kathleen Hannon, Ryan Woodruff, and Melissa Spicer, Clear Path for Veterans.
Researchers reported significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, as well as reductions in perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgement, and significant increases in self-compassion when comparing the veterans that participated in the Dogs2Vets program over a 12-month period to veterans that were on the waiting list to receive a dog during that time period.
“The short story here is that dogs may be the best friend for a veteran with PTSD who engages in this training program,” says JACM Editor-in-Chief John Weeks. “It is remarkable when research suggests that the best medicine for such a gnawing condition may be as close at hand and simple as this.”
College Of Law, Falk College provide legal support to local community
Earlier this year Mary Helen McNeal, Professor of Law and Director of the Elder and Health Law Clinic, and Falk public health professor, Luvenia Cowart, and Maria T. Brown, assistant research professor in Falk College’s School of Social Work and faculty affiliate at Syracuse University’s Aging Studies Institute, identified ways to connect experiential learning for law students with an unmet need in the community. Cowart is the co-founder of the Genesis Health Project that aims to reduce health disparities and promote healthy lifestyles among African Americans in Syracuse. The African American Dementia Caregiver Support Project’s 12-Week Healthy Living Program is a Genesis Project that promotes health and wellness, including education about dementia caregiving, nutrition and physical fitness. A two-part seminar series on advance directives was a natural fit for the Genesis Project.
“Advance planning for medical decisions and preferences is never an easy conversation to have with loved ones, but it is a necessary and responsible thing to do,” explains Cowart. “The students from the College of Law, under Professor McNeal’s leadership, filled a significant void within our community.”
Research estimates that only one in three Americans has an advance directive, a number that is substantially lower among communities of color, those of lower socio-economic status, and lower levels of education. This semester, College of Law students in McNeal’s Advance Directives in the Community course and Elder and Health Law Clinic (EHLC) gained hands-on experience educating local residents about the importance of planning for end-of-life care while helping them prepare advance directives in partnership with Falk College.
“Advance directives enable people to appoint a proxy to make decisions when they are no longer able to, and they lay out a person’s preferences for the care they want,” says McNeal. Providing general practice legal assistance for those aged 60 and over with low or moderate incomes, the EHLC offers students the opportunity to represent clients with faculty guidance and oversight.
New public health faculty bring variety of expertise to classrooms, research
Falk College’s newest public health faculty, Bryce Hruska, Bhavneet Walia, and Najah Zaaeed, bring a variety of research interests and specializations to the program, including stress, health economics, and
Bryce Hruska, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the public health program where he has served as a research assistant professor, postdoctoral researcher, and project manager. He specializes in traumatic events, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress and health, occupational stress, recovery experiences, and quantitative methods.
Hruska’s research focuses on better understanding how psychological stress “gets under the skin” to impact physical health. Since coming to Falk College, his work has primarily consisted of overseeing the operations of two research projects: “Environmental Toxicants, Race, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children” and “The Psychosocial and Physiological Consequences of Taking and Not Taking Time Off from Work.” He has most recently published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, as well as Environmental Research, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, and Social Science and Medicine, among others.
Bhavneet Walia, Ph.D., an assistant professor, joined Syracuse University in 2015 from Western Illinois University where she was an associate professor of decision sciences and founding director of the business analytics post-baccalaureate certificate program. Her fields of specialization include health economics and health econometrics.
Walia’s present research efforts are focused in three areas: early child health interventions and cognitive development; mortality and behavioral effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and related neurodegenerative diseases; and markets for health care in the United States. Her research and scholarship include 14 peer-reviewed journal articles that have appeared in leading journals of applied economics, health policy, and environmental policy: the American Journal of Economics & Sociology, the Journal of Economic Education, and the Southern Economic Journal, and two in Renewable Agriculture & Food Systems, Economics Letters.
Najah Zaaeed, Dr.PH. is an assistant teaching professor in the public health program. Since 2016, Zaaeed has taught as an adjunct professor in public health at Syracuse University and at SUNY Oswego. She specializes in global health and mental health, health education and promotion, social media and health outcomes, addiction and wellness, gerontology, disability studies, maternal and child health, and refugee health and social service needs
Zaaeed’s research interests are in aging with intellectual and developmental disabilities, maternal and child health, effectiveness of ecological models for health awareness at global levels, and refugee health. Zaaeed authored a chapter in the book Refugee Education: International Perspectives from Higher Education and NGOs. She is also published in the International Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Journal of Refugee and Global Health and has presented at the North American Refugees Health Conference.
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