Social Work News
June PTSD Awareness Month
Falk College, National Science Foundation(NSF) 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:
Wednesday, May 26 at 2:00, Virtual
Scott Aubin, U.S. Air Force veteran, PTSD awareness instructor, “Dealing with unrecognized PTSD”.
Wednesday, June 2 at 2:00 pm, Virtual
Kyle Possemato, clinical research psychologist, Syracuse VA Center for Integrated Healthcare, “Novel Interventions to Engage Veterans with Unmet Mental Health Needs in Care”.
Monday June 9 at 2:00 pm, Virtual
Thom DeLara, Professor of Practice and Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy at Syracuse University “Systems Theory, Trauma and Research”.
Wednesday, June 16 at 2:00 pm, Virtual
Keith Alford PhD, Syracuse University Chief Diversity Officer, “Racial, cultural and ethnic response differences to PTSD”.
Wednesday June 23 at 2:00, Virtual
Lt Col. Ian Stewart MD, FACP, FASN, U.S Air Force, Medical Corps, Bethesda, MD. “Long-term mental and physical health after combat trauma”.
Wednesday June 23 at 3:00, Virtual
Jeffrey T. Howard, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health, College for Health, Community and Policy, University of Texas at San Antonio, “Military Exposures and Accelerated Aging: Understanding Trauma as a Chronic Disease.”
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.
Online Master of Social Work Opens Doors to Career Changers, Working Professionals
The School of Social Work will welcome its first cohort of online master’s students in May, and Professor Ken Marfilius is excited.
“We are already seeing strong applications for our first cohort of 50 students. I think the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated acceptance of online learning,” Marfilius says. “The flexibility that this program offers is appealing to working professionals, including active duty military and veterans. It will serve anyone who wants to work for social and economic justice in the digital age and beyond.”
Carrie Smith, professor and interim director of the School of Social Work in Falk College, agrees and notes that ubiquitous technology is only part of the equation.
“What has happened with COVID is that it has created this giant pause for the country and the world,” Smith says. “People have fewer distractions, they have been stilled and are seeking information. A lot of that information has been unsettling, frustrating and has impacted lives in unanticipated ways.
“Historically, when there have been times of crisis, depression, despair or economic change, people decide they are going to change careers and do something to give back,” Smith adds. “Social work is one of the original giving back professions.”
The online M.S.W. incorporates the same social and economic justice approach as Syracuse’s existing social work programs. Developed in partnership with 2U, the 60-credit degree can be completed in 36 months, including 1,000 hours of field placements, and students with a bachelor’s in social work can pursue an accelerated track consisting of 36 credits that can be completed in 24 months with 500 hours of field placement.
Students can choose from two tracks: The advanced clinical practice concentration prepares mental health clinicians for practice as a licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.), and the advanced integrated practice concentration prepares students for direct practice and leadership in a wide range of human services organizations. All of these options are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and prepare students to sit for the Association of Social Work Boards licensing examination.
“Having earned my master of social Work at Syracuse University, I am proud that we will be offering this fully integrated online M.S.W.,” says Diane Lyden Murphy, dean of the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. “The program maximizes access to the social work profession and flexibility for many of our interested students. The online M.S.W. offers entrance to a lifelong socially responsible career where professionals engage and guide people through mental health, behavioral health and social challenges.
“The School of Social Work is a legacy program, recognized for its excellent graduates, high licensing pass rates and alumni practicing across the nation,” Murphy adds. “We are pleased to continue our strong tradition of professional education for online students.”
Marfilius says that the University’s social work faculty are excited about the opportunity to reimagine how courses are delivered and the opportunities that students will have to do their fieldwork close to home. There are live class sessions and asynchronous learning elements that faculty have designed to work together seamlessly.
“People are doing more online, it’s less intimidating,” says Smith, “but our faculty are also very focused on ensuring that we maintain the human connection in the context of the technology.”
Students will also experience the human connection through field placements in their own geographic area. Marfilius, who has experience with online education while in the military, says, “Social work needs leaders. We know that prospective students—as I saw when I was in the Air Force—want to give back to and support their communities while gaining additional leadership skills.”
Tracy Walker, director of field relations, agrees.
“Ideally, we want students to complete their field work within 60 miles of where they reside. Each student will be working with placement specialists to determine their interests and goals,” Walker says. “We are building partnerships with a wide range of organizations including government, not-for-profit, health care and the Veterans Administration.”
Walker says that students get support at all phases of the program, and adds, “The field team will interact with the students and their field sites just like they are in our community. It is a priority for us to be available and responsive.”
Student internships provide progressive learning, with a virtual field experience in the first semester building to a generalist approach, then moving into each student’s professional focus. This virtual anchor course helps students engage in risk management, intervention strategies and ethical decision-making in a setting that simulates what students may encounter in practice.
“Research shows that the use of simulation can be really important to developing direct practice skills,” Walker says. “Students engage with standardized patients – actors who are trained to simulate clinical situations and typical client interactions – and receive feedback on their approach before they work directly in an organization.”
There are also field seminars, where students and faculty have broad and open discussions integrating what students learn in the classroom with what they experience in their internships. This structure was piloted in Fall 2020 for current residential program students with positive feedback.
“It’s become abundantly clear that the future holds more need for social workers. The quality of education we provide prepares these students to make a connection person-to-person, build trust and problem-solve with clients,” Smith says. “With the expanded use of technology to connect people with resources and extend the reach of human services professionals, we’re expanding the tool set that MSW graduates will have to respond to people in need of resources.”
~ A Syracuse University News story by Ellen de Graffenreid originally published on March 8, 2021.
Falk College welcomes new faculty and staff
Syracuse University’s Falk College is pleased to welcome four new staff members who have joined Falk College in the past academic year: Donna Fecteau, Administrative Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science; Julia Fuqua, Office Coordinator in the Department of Exercise Science; Heather Mauro, Internship Placement Coordinator in the School of Social Work, and; Melissa Tobin, Counselor, Academic Services in the Office of Student Services.
In addition, Falk College is pleased to announce the appointment of six new faculty members, Bernard Appiah, Maria Erdman, Kenneth Marfilius, Miriam Mutambudzi, Latha Ramalingam, and Maryam Yuhas, in addition to six faculty who join Falk College with the Department of Exercise Science, Tiago Barreira, Tom Brutsaert, Keith DeRuisseau, Kevin Heffernan, Joon Young Kim, and Kristen Konkol.
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health
Bernard Appiah joins the Department of Public Health in Falk College as Assistant Professor in Fall 2020.
Prior to joining Syracuse University, Appiah was Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health in the Departments of Environmental and Occupational Health and Public Health Studies. He was the Founding Director of the Research Program on Public and International Engagement for Health. Previously, Appiah served as a Drug Information Pharmacist/Publications Manager at the National Drug Information Resource Centre (NDIRC) for the Ministry of Health in Ghana. He has taught courses such as environmental and occupational health communication, social context of population health, and comparative global health systems.
Appiah’s research interests lie in socio-behavioral approaches for exploring public health issues, global health and environmental health with emphasis on socio-behavioral change communication, public/community engagement interventions, and dissemination of information/knowledge through culturally appropriate communication channels. He is published in several journals, including Psychiatry Research, BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) mHealth and uHealth, and authored book chapters, technical reports, and many articles for mass media. He has presented at the International Workshop for Practitioners of Engagement Between Health Researchers and Schools in Kilifi, Kenya, the West African Society of Pharmacologists (WASOP) Conference in Ghana, and the Academy for Future International Leaders (AFIL) Open Session Seminar on Global Health Issues.
Appiah’s research has received support from the Wellcome Trust, UK, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, USAID Ghana, and Texas A&M University. Among the most recent supporters of his research is the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. Appiah is the recipient of numerous teaching and research fellowships and other honors including being named as a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow in 2018 and 2016. He currently serves as Head of Capacity Building and Research Programmes for the Pan-African Network for Popularization of Science and Technology and Science Communication (African Gong); member of the Healthcare Safety and Quality Expert Committee of the U.S. Pharmacopeia, and; reviewer for Public Understanding of Science.
Appiah earned his Dr.PH in Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences in 2013 and his M.S. in Science and Technology Journalism from Texas A&M University’s School of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, respectively. He earned his master’s in Development Communication from the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) and his B.Pharm in Pharmacy from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.
Assistant Professor, Department of Exercise Science
Tiago Barreira joins Falk College as Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise Science in Fall 2020. He teaches courses such as systemic physiology and exercise, research methods in exercise and sports science, measurement and evaluation in exercise science, physical activity and public health, and obesity and body composition.
Prior to joining Falk College in 2020, the Department of Exercise Science was positioned within Syracuse University’s School of Education, where Barreira has served as Assistant Professor since 2014. Barreira is also the Director of the Kinesmetrics Laboratory at Syracuse University. Prior to joining Syracuse, he completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Barreira’s research focuses on the measurement of physical activity: establishing validity and reliability evidence of physical activity measurement tools; determining how to use physical activity measurement tools to obtain reliable and accurate information on physical activity patterns; the use of physical activity measurement tools as a motivation to promote increased physical activity levels, and; investigating the relationship between physical activity and cardiovascular disease risk factors. His work is published in several journals, most recently in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, Disability and Rehabilitation, Artery Research, and the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness among others. He has given presentations for the International Biometric Conference, The American College of Sports Medicine, and the International Conference on Ambulatory Monitoring of Physical Activity and Movement, among others.
Past research has received support from the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, Institute for Educational Sciences SHAPE America, Fight for Hearts, among others. Barreira is a journal editor for the Physical Activity section of Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise and is a manuscript reviewer for several journals and publications. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the Measurement and Evaluation Special Interest Group from SHAPE America and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine Mid-Atlantic Chapter Research Committee.
Barreira earned his Ph.D. in Human Performance with a concentration in Kinesmetrics in 2010 from Middle Tennessee State University, where he also earned his M.S. in Exercise Science. He also earned a B.A. Physical Education and B.S. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Professor, Department of Exercise Science
Tom Brutsaert joins Falk College as Professor in the Department of Exercise Science in Fall 2020. In the department, he teaches courses such as energy metabolism and exercise, physiology of exercise, environmental physiology, high altitude physiology and biology, and human biological variation.
Prior to joining Falk College in 2020, the Department of Exercise Science was positioned within Syracuse University’s School of Education, where Brutsaert has served as Professor since 2016 and previously as Associate Professor since 2009. At Syracuse, Brutsaert is the Director of the Altitude Simulation Laboratory, holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Anthropology, and helps to coordinate the Human Performance Laboratory. Before joining Syracuse University, he held several positions at SUNY Albany. There, he was a Fellow in the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis, and was Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology from 2005 to 2009 after being promoted from Assistant Professor. He also served as Co-Director of the Human Biology Program from 2003 to 2004. He completed an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California at San Diego’s School of Medicine in the Division of Physiology.
Brutsaert has broad research interests in how gene and environment interact to produce variation in human athletic ability and health and disease. His work is published in several publications, most recently in Frontiers in Genetics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, European Journal of Applied Physiology, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, and International Journal of Molecular Sciences, among others. He has given presentations at the International Conference on Genomics, Leh High Altitude Symposium, World Congress on High Altitude Medicine and Physiology, for the Center for Physiological Genomics, and others.
Past research has received support from the National Science Foundation (NSF Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Geographic Foundation, and a Fulbright Specialist Award. Brutsaert serves on the Advisory Editorial Board for Sports Sciences for Health and the Editorial Board for High Altitude Medicine and Biology, and previously served in editorial and reviewer roles for other journals, books, and grants.
Brutsaert earned his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology in 1977 from Cornell University, where he also earned his M.S. in Human Nutrition and M.A. in Biological Anthropology. He earned his B.A. in Biology from Northeastern University.
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Exercise Science
Keith DeRuisseau joins Falk College as Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise Science in Fall 2020. He is currently the Chair of the department and teaches courses such as introduction to exercise science, physiology of exercise, and skeletal muscle physiology.
Prior to joining Falk College in 2020, the Department of Exercise Science was positioned within Syracuse University’s School of Education, where DeRuisseau has served as Associate Professor since 2012 and previously as Assistant Professor since 2006. Before joining Syracuse University, he was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology at the University of Florida.
DeRuisseau’s research investigates potential mediators of skeletal muscle dysfunction under conditions that include disuse, aging, and trisomy (a model of Down syndrome). An emphasis is placed on how iron, oxidants, and antioxidants contribute to skeletal muscle mass and functional responses. He is published in several journals, most recently in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, the Journal of Applied Physiology, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, European Journal of Sport Science, and Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology. He has presented his work at Experimental Biology annual meetings and for the American College of Sports Medicine.
Past research has received support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and National Institute on Aging (NIA), the Diabetes Group of the Hill Collaboration on Environmental Medicine, the Syracuse University Gerontology Center, and others. DeRuisseau is a 2015-16 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant awardee for the Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Grant in Health and Environmental Sciences. He is a member of the American Physiological Society and invited manuscript reviewer for publications such as Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, and the Journal of Applied Physiology, among others.
DeRuisseau earned his Ph.D. in Movement Science from Florida State University in 2002. He earned his M.S. and B.S. in Exercise Science, both from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies
Maria Erdman joins the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies in Falk College as an Associate Teaching Professor in Fall 2020. At Syracuse, Erdman will teach in the nutrition program.
Prior to joining Syracuse University, Erdman was employed at Morrison Healthcare at Upstate University Hospital as a Clinical Outpatient Dietitian at the Upstate Cancer Center since 2014. Prior to that time, she was a Clinical Inpatient Dietitian. Previously, she was a Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant at Syracuse University, and also worked as a Laboratory Manager and Research Technician at UC Davis, Yale College, and Syracuse University.
Erdman’s research on nutrition on college campuses is published in Public Health Nutrition and Health Promotion. She has presented at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition of the American Dietetic Association (2010) and NYSDA Annual Meeting (2009). She has given many nutrition lectures and educational sessions at Oasis/Healthlink Learning Center at Upstate Medical University, Upstate Cancer Center, Upstate Healthlink On Air Radio Program, and Upstate Medical University Physical Therapy, among others.
She is the recipient of several awards, including the Upstate Cancer Center Nutrition Services Fund, a grant from the Upstate Foundation to pay the nutrition counseling bills of cancer patients at Upstate Cancer Center, as well as the 2016 President’s Employee Recognition Award, Clinical Team of the Year. She also received the 2010 Outstanding Dietetics Student Dietetic Internship Award from the New York State Dietetic Association (NYSDA) and the Outstanding Graduate Student in Nutrition Science from Syracuse University. She has served in several volunteer positions for the CNYDA, including president, and has served in volunteer roles at the Crouse Hospital Clinical Dietetics Department, Syracuse City School District, and Community Supported Agriculture of Central New York, among others.
Erdman earned a M.S. in Nutrition Science at Syracuse University in 2009, where she also completed her Dietetic Internship, and a B.S. in Genetics at the University of California, Davis.
She earned certifications as a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (CSO) 2015-20 and a Board Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) 2012-17.
Associate Professor, Department of Exercise Science
Kevin Heffernan joins Falk College as Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise Science in Fall 2020. In the department, he teaches courses such as exercise and aging, cardiac rehabilitation, and advanced cardiovascular exercise physiology.
Prior to joining Falk College in 2020, the Department of Exercise Science was positioned within Syracuse University’s School of Education, where Heffernan has served as Dean’s (Distinguished) Associate Professor since 2011. He currently serves as the Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Syracuse University. Previously, he completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Tufts Medical Center, Molecular Cardiology Research Institute and the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging from 2008 to 2011.
Heffernan’s research examines the interaction of diet, nutritional supplementation and exercise, with an emphasis on resistance exercise, on vascular function in health, disease and disability throughout the human lifespan. His work is published in several journals, most recently the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, JAMA Cardiology, and the Journal of Applied Physiology. He has presented recent work on exercise and cardiovascular health at the American College of Sports Medicine and the North American Artery Society scientific conferences as well as work related to health disparities in cardiovascular disease risk to members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He is Past-President of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Past research has been funded by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Current work is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, part of the National Institutes of Health. Heffernan serves on the Syracuse University Institutional Review Board, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Faculty, is an Aging Studies Institute Research Member and a Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion Faculty Fellow.
Heffernan earned his Ph.D. in Kinesiology/Exercise Physiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008. He holds a M.S. in Applied Physiology and Nutrition from Columbia University, and a B.S. in Exercise Science from the University of Scranton.
Joon Young Kim
Assistant Professor, Department of Exercise Science
Joon Young Kim joins Falk College as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise Science in Fall 2020. In the department, he teaches courses such as pediatric obesity and systemic physiology and exercise.
Prior to joining Falk College in 2020, the Department of Exercise Science was positioned within Syracuse University’s School of Education, where Kim has served as Assistant Professor since 2019. He currently leads the Clinical Research Laboratory at Syracuse University. Previously, he was a National Institutes of Health-supported T32 Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Postdoctoral Associate at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh from 2015 to 2019.
Kim is a Ph.D.-scientist and a clinical researcher in exercise physiology with specific focus on childhood obesity, metabolism, and type 2 diabetes. His research focuses on pathophysiology of youth-onset prediabetes/type 2 diabetes, identification of novel phenotypic biomarkers and genetic targets of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and effects of lifestyle intervention on type 2 diabetes risk in obese youth. His work is published in several high-impact journals including Diabetes Care, Diabetes, and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. He has given presentations at the American Diabetes Association, American College of Sport Medicine, Endocrine Society, and others.
Past research has been funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the Arizona State University Research Support Program. He has received scholarships and awards from Yonsei University and Arizona State University, as well as the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes and the Endocrine Society. He currently serves as an Advising Member for the American Diabetes Association’s Exercise Physiology Interest Group Leadership Team, an Organizing/Scientific Committee Member for the World Obesity and Weight Management Congress, and an Editorial Board Member for the Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome.
Kim earned his Ph.D. in Kinesiology/Exercise Physiology from Arizona State University in 2015. He holds a B.S. in Physical Education from Yonsei University in South Korea.
Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Exercise Science
Kristin Konkol joins Falk College as an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Exercise Science in Fall 2020. She has a dual appointment in the School of Education. In the department, she teaches courses such as structural kinesiology for performance enhancement and injury prevention, structural kinesiology, scientific principles of conditioning, and concepts of fitness. She also runs the internship and experience credits for the department.
Prior to joining Falk College in 2020, the Department of Exercise Science was positioned within Syracuse University’s School of Education, where Konkol has served as Assistant Professor since 2018, and formerly as part-time faculty. Previously, Konkol was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Performance, Exercise Science/Physiology at the Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she taught courses such as individualized exercise, aerobic conditioning, and concepts of fitness, among others. She also held an adjunct faculty position there, as well as coaching positions at the Gustavus Adolphus College. At the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa, Konkol held several titles, including lecturer, lab instructor, manager in the Human Performance Laboratory, and performance specialist for professional athletes.
Konkol’s research interests include sport specific training; speed, agility, and quickness training; athletic performance testing; strength and conditioning; exercise immunology; and global perspectives in human performance. Konkol’s work is published in the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa, Sport Sciences for Health, Children, Sports and Exercise Medicine Open Journal, and International Journal of Exercise Science.
Konkol currently serves at Syracuse University as the I-Move Program Coordinator and Dance Minor Coordinator. From 2004 to 2006, she served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Guyana and South America. Konlol is a Certified Performance Enhancement Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Konkol earned her Ph.D. in Sports Science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa in 2013. She earned an M.A. in Kinesiology with an Exercise Physiology emphasis and a graduate minor in Complementary and Alternative Therapy and Healing Practices from the University of Minnesota in 2001. She earned her B.S. in Exercise Science with a Cardiac Rehabilitation emphasis from the University of Toledo, where she was a Division I collegiate basketball athlete.
Assistant Teaching Professor, School of Social Work
Ken Marfilius joins the School of Social Work in Falk College as an Assistant Teaching Professor in Fall 2020.
Prior to his new appointment at Syracuse University, Marfilius served as a Visiting Teaching Professor in Falk College’s School of Social Work since 2018, and as an Adjunct Faculty Member from 2016 to 2018. Marfilius will serve as the School of Social Work’s Undergraduate Director. He has taught courses on topics such as social work intervention, military culture and social work practice, psychopathology, and others. 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, and as a Disruptive Behavior Committee Member.
Marfilius has given several presentations and trainings, topics ranging from veteran cultural competence to trauma-informed care, at the Association for Humanistic Counseling National Conference, the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, and the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, among others.
Marfilius is honored with a National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal. He is a recipient of the U.S. Air Force Health Professions Scholarship and the U.S. Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and has twice been awarded the Barksdale Air Force Base Medical Operations Squadron Company Grade Officer of the Quarter. Marfilius currently serves on several committees at Syracuse University, including his service as Chair of the Council on the Social Work Education Self-Study Steering Committee.
Marfilius earned a Doctorate in Clinical Social Work (D.S.W.) and Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. He earned a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Public Health from Syracuse University. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of North Carolina and is certified in Prolonged Exposure Therapy.
Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health
Miriam Mutambudzi joins the Department of Public Health in Falk College as Assistant Professor in Fall 2020.
Prior to joining Syracuse University, Mutambudzi served as a Research Associate in the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and a Guest Epidemiology Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and a Senior Research Program Coordinator at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine.
Mutambudzi’s research focus is on chronic disease and occupational epidemiology. Much of her research has largely been directed towards the use of longitudinal data to assess disparities in morbidity, disability, and mortality, with particular interest in onset and progression of chronic diseases, work-related health outcomes, and social determinants of health in vulnerable populations and older adults in Europe and the U.S. She has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals including the European Journal of Ageing, Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science, and the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, among many others. She has presented at the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), Epidemiology in Occupation Health Conference (EPICOH), and the Population Association of America (PAA).
Mutambudzi is the 2020 recipient of the Kammer Emmett Award from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) for the most outstanding article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2019. Past research support includes funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). She is an Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Aging and Health and has served as an editorial peer reviewer for many other journals. She is a member of the European Association for Population Studies.
Mutambudzi earned her Ph.D. in Public Health from University of Connecticut in 2012. She also holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and a B.A. in International Studies from the West Virginia University.
Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies
Latha Ramalingam joins the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies in Falk College as Assistant Professor in Fall 2020. She works broadly in areas of metabolic disease, which include obesity and diabetes.
Prior to joining Syracuse University, Ramalingam was a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University since 2014. Previously, she served at Indiana University’s School of Medicine as a Postdoctoral Fellow and a Research Assistant.
Ramalingam’s research interests include strategies, both in vitro and in vivo, to investigate the effects of Bioactives (omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D) in maternal obesity using animal models. She also has projects investigating the mechanism behind the role of Renin Angiotensin System (RAS) in beta cells. She has published in several journals, including Scientific Reports, Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, Nutrients, and Diabetes. She has presented her work at the American Society of Nutrition, American Heart Association and Obesity Society.
Ramalingam’s research has been supported by the American Heart Association, the USDA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the Obesity Society, and Texas Tech University. She is the recipient of several awards, including Early Career Travel Award for International Congress of Nutrition, Argentina 2017, and 2016 IJO Young Investigator Award, 13th International Congress of Obesity, Vancouver, Canada and the Early Career Grant Challenge from Obesity Society among other awards. Currently, she serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, International Journal of Diabetes, and Obesity and Nutritional Disorders.
Ramalingam earned her Ph.D. at the Indiana University’s School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, in 2014. She also holds a M.Tech from Vellore Institute of Technology’s School of Biotechnology in Vellore, India and a B.Pharm from Sri Ramachandra Medical College’s School of Pharmacy in Chennai.
Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies
Maryam Yuhas joins the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies as Assistant Professor in fall 2020. At Syracuse University, Yuhas will teach in the nutrition program.
Prior to joining Syracuse University, Yuhas served as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences, since 2019. Previously, she has practiced as Registered Dietitian in two different clinical settings and has held roles as Graduate Research Assistant for the University of Virginia’s Department of Public Health Sciences, Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, and for Oklahoma State University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. She has also held other intern, extern, and teaching assistant roles. Yuhas’s research is rooted in the socioecological perspective and focuses on working with minority, low-income, and rural communities to implement and evaluate nutrition- and physical activity-based interventions. She is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) mHealth and uHealth, Journal of Appalachian Health, Contemporary Clinical Trials, Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, and Nutrition and Metabolic Insights. She has given scientific presentations at The Obesity Society, Experimental Biology, and the Oklahoma Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, among others.
Current research projects for which Yuhas serves as Postdoctoral Research Associate are supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Yuhas is the recipient of several awards, including the 2013 Weber Gerontology Scholarship Award at Oklahoma State University and the 2016 Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program Award at Virginia Tech, among others. She currently serves as a reviewer for several journals including the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Journal of Adolescent Health. She is a member of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and several community-based advisory boards and coalitions.
Yuhas earned her Ph.D. in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise from Virginia Tech in 2019, specializing in Behavioral and Community Sciences. She earned her M.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Oklahoma State University and her B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from Benedictine University. She completed her Dietetic Internship at Oklahoma State University and earned her Registered Dietitian (RDN) credential from Commission on Dietetics Registration in 2014.
Falk Student Laura Buys Named Syracuse University 2020 Tillman Scholar
Laura Buys, graduate student in Falk College’s School of Social Work, was recently named the Syracuse University 2020 Tillman Scholar. Syracuse University was invited to become a Pat Tillman Foundation University Partner in 2017. The Tillman Scholar program unites and empowers remarkable military veterans and spouses as the next generation of public and private sector leaders committed to service beyond self. Syracuse University shares these ideals and is proud to support Tillman Scholars on our campus.
Laura enlisted in the Air Force in 2012 and became an Operations Intelligence Analyst. In 2014, she deployed to Qatar in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve. She later joined the prestigious Cobra Ball in Alaska and Japan while supporting international treaty verification. During her military career, Laura delivered over 600 intelligence briefings to Air Force leadership, aircrew, and government officials around the world. She also supported 160 CENTCOM combat missions, leading to more than 11,000 signals intelligence reports and 8 relief airdrops to displaced Yazidi civilians. As a result of her exemplary service, Laura was awarded a medal for Meritorious Service Achievement and recognized as Senior Airman Below the Zone.
After honorably separating in 2017, she fully immersed herself into a career in human services. Since then, Laura has graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. She later became her school’s Disability Services Liaison for Student Veterans and is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work Degree at Syracuse University’s Falk College. Laura has also been a powerful force in her community, working and volunteering with a wide array of populations, including veterans, homeless families, young adults with developmental disabilities, at-risk youth, refugees, and the elderly. Her goal is to continue making a positive impact by dismantling forms of social injustice and helping others overcome trauma. Laura’s story is currently being featured in the National Veteran’s Museum and Memorial in Columbus, Ohio.
College Honors 2020 Faculty of the Year
On May 1, Falk College held its annual recognition of academic excellence with its Faculty of the Year Awards. These awards, selected by members of Falk Faculty Council based upon peer nominations and documentary evidence, recognize faculty excellence in the academic year. Faculty are nominated in one of three categories: Service, Teaching, and Research. This year, the Falk College Faculty Council also presented the Faculty Governance Champion Award to recognize a faculty member who has gone above and beyond expectations to ensure and enhance faculty governance in Falk College.
This year’s honorees:
Excellence in Service – Alejandro Garcia, Jocelyn Falk Endowed Professor of Social Work
Excellence in Teaching – Matthew Mulvaney, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Science
Excellence in Research – Sara Vasilenko, Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Science
Faculty Governance Champion – Karen E. Kirkhart, Professor, School of Social Work
Congratulations Professors Garcia, Kirkhart, Mulvaney, and Vasilenko!
2020 Faculty of the Year for Service: Alejandro Garcia
Dr. Alejandro Garcia concludes a career of service to the School of Social Work, Falk College, the University, and the profession with a strong record of service at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Dr. Garcia is an accomplished photographer, and he continued to document our collective history as a College in 2019. He photographed major annual events in the School of Social Work such as the 2019 Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Awards, Overcoming Adversity: Embracing Resilience and Social Change, and the 2019 James L. Stone Legislative Policy Symposium, A Matter of Social Justice: Addressing the Lead Poisoning of Children in New York State and Syracuse. He documented celebrations such as the 2019 Induction of members into the Zeta Gamma Chapter of the Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society, the 2019 Convocation Awards ceremonies (BSSW and MSW), the Holiday Party, the retirement of esteemed colleague, Jennifer Wilkins, and the celebration of Kate Veley’s new position. He documented special events such as The Veterans’ Voice: A Panel Discussion on Military Culture, Resilience and the Familial Impact (March, 2019). He also honored students by photographing the Falk Senior Celebration.
Dr. Garcia has been a generous sponsor of scholarships and student assistance in the School of Social Work. In 2019, he continued to support the scholarship that he established for MSW Latino students, and the book fund for those MSW students who cannot afford their textbooks. He is a member of the 1870 Society for his generosity at the University level.
Dr. Garcia has a long history of participation in Promotion and Tenure reviews of Falk College, both in the School of Social Work and in other units when the participation of a senior faculty member was required. At the University level, he participated in the planning committee for the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, having previously been honored by Phi Iota Alpha and the Multicultural Center at Syracuse University for this work.
Dr. Garcia gives back to the local community. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Rescue Mission, and in 2019, he continued to work with SU, the Rescue Mission, and Interfaith Works to obtain computers and clothing for New Americans. He was honored by the Rescue Mission for his service. He is a member of the Advisory Board of RISE Community Center (formerly the Turkish Community Center).
Dr. Garcia also engaged in service to the profession in 2019. He serves as a reviewer for Psychology and Aging. He is an active member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers, The American Association of University Professors, the Council on Social Work education, the Gerontological Society of America, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Association of Latino and Latina Social Work Educators. Dr. Garcia is a former member of the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education, and he continues to carry out labor-intensive site visits to programs under review. In 2019, he completed visits to InterAmerican University in Arecibo and InterAmerican University, Metropolitan campus.
2020 Faculty of the Year for Teaching: Matthew Mulvaney
Dr. Matthew Mulvaney is a devoted teacher and mentor who is committed to making all classes-whether it’s a large Human Development service class, a small graduate seminar, or an online course-accessible yet challenging for all learners.
As a professor, he strives to include diversity in the classroom and challenge students to grow and understand the importance of research as the basis of knowing. As testament to his effectiveness, consider the words of students from his teaching evaluations: “Dr. Mulvaney was able to guide us through the required material while still stopping to focus on points where students were interested or struggling. This class was informative, engaging, and challenging.” Another student stated, “the seminar style course where students were challenged to push ourselves to truly explain our thinking was really helpful in beginning to think more deeply on subjects and ideas that we have taken for granted.” Finally, “I have learned more in this one class than I have in an entire semester of classes. He is a great teacher and makes class fun and engaging.”
Matt’s commitment to teaching goes beyond the classroom.
He has many external roles at national and international levels including presenting at conferences such as the Teaching Institute at Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In 2019, Matt became the Chair of the SRCD National Teaching Committee and has been working to shape teaching policy at the national level. He is developing the national website on teaching and assisting in the organization of the Teaching Institute that will take place at the SRCD conference. At Syracuse University, he serves as a co-mentor for the undergraduate honor society Kappa Omicron Nu and has been very effective in reviving this student-focused club. Additionally, he is a faculty advisor for the Future Professoriate Program. In this role he assists graduate students in developing their teaching strategies, building their teaching portfolios, and preparing them for a career in academia.
As a mentor, Matt is most proud of his role in mentoring an undergraduate student, Noelle Rowe, who was a McNair Scholar and Honor’s student. Working closely with Matt, Noelle was selected as a Syracuse Scholar in the Spring of 2019 and was his coauthor on two national presentations.
Dr. Mulvaney’s dedication to teaching and mentoring are appreciated by his students and mentees, which make him an outstanding and impactful educator.
2020 Faculty of the Year for Research: Sara Vasilenko
Dr. Vasilenko was selected for this honor from a very strong pool of candidates. In calendar year 2019, Dr. Vasilenko published four refereed journal articles, and she was lead author on three of those. Impressively, the journals in which Dr. Vasilenko published have an average impact factor of 2.9. She also published two book chapters, had one conditional acceptance of a journal article, and she currently has four manuscripts under review.
Dr. Vasilenko’s published work in 2019 includes the following important topics: (a) multidimensional risk profiles and protective factors as moderators of the effects of a teen pregnancy prevention program; (b) patterns of sexual behaviors of young men who have sex with men in Mexico; (c) how multidimensional patterns of adolescent religiosity are associated with sexual and romantic relationship outcomes; and (d) sexual minority health disparities across the lifespan. In addition to her publications, Dr. Vasilenko received three external grants, two of which were from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Although diverse in topic and scope, all of Dr. Vasilenko’s funded projects focus on understanding multidimensional risk and protective factors for health and well-being. Finally, Dr. Vasilenko’s research had a high impact on the fields of human development, sexuality, and health, as evidenced by 284 new citations in 2019 according to Google Scholar.
2020 Faculty Governance Champion: Karen E. Kirkhart
A member of the School of Social Work faculty and director of its undergraduate program Dr. Karen E. Kirkhart has served as chair of the Faculty Council for five years. This award recognizes her service and outstanding contributions to ensuring faculty participation in Falk College governance. This demanding and vital leadership role entailed bi-weekly Faculty Council meetings, monthly Cabinet meetings, and almost daily attention to all kinds of matters involving faculty. Dr. Kirkhart attended to details to ensure that elections and awards were on time and fair. She revised portions of the faculty manual, and then identified more critical updates to address. One of these efforts involved a labor-intensive process of re-documenting important work on mentoring that had been lost. Faculty Council members noted, “Karen’s biggest contribution is the extent to which she molded Faculty Council members into a collegial, supportive group each year. She prioritized individual check-ins and information sharing across departments. This work is unheralded, but those of us who have served on the Faculty Council with Karen can appreciate what this did to unify and strengthen the College.” Professor Kirkhart is retiring from Syracuse University at the conclusion of this academic year.
Social work students explore lead poisoning of children in NYS, Syracuse, at 21st Annual James L. Stone Legislative Policy Forum
On November 1, students in Syracuse University’s School of Social Work in Falk College explored one of today’s major public health threats that hits very close to home: lead poisoning of children in New York State and specifically, Syracuse. Each year an estimated 1,800 children are found to be lead-poisoned in New York State.
With a focus on implications for public policy and social work practice, the 21st Annual James L. Stone Legislative Policy Forum brought students together with neighborhood, community and political leaders, and other experts to understand what can and needs to be done about the unacceptably large number of children exposed to lead.
Any amount of lead in the body can be harmful, causing life-long cognitive and neurological delays and behavioral problems, among other issues. It is caused by inhaling or ingesting microscopic lead dust that comes from lead paint in older homes, the dirt where children play, water flowing through lead pipes into our homes, and other less pervasive sources.
Students heard from panelists and speakers including state and county officials and others with political, professional and personal experience addressing lead poisoning from many aspects, including:
- social, economic, and political forces giving rise to this problem;
- implications of poisoning for children, families and communities;
- ways social workers, social work services, public health professionals and policy advocates touch families experiencing the lead poisoning of a child;
- efficacy of existing laws, regulations and programs;
- legislation, administrative changes and advocacy civic efforts, and;
- practical steps for remediating and eliminating lead poisoning of children.
Keynote speaker, Hon. Gustavo Rivera, senator, New York State Senate, District 33, Chairman, Committee on Health, presented, “Legislative Action to End Lead Poisoning of Children in New York State.” Panels included:
Making State and Local Change
Moderator: Eric Kingson, professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work
Panelists: Hon. Rachel May, Senator, New York State, District 53, chair, Committee on Aging and chair, Legislative Commission on Rural Resources; Hon. David H. Knapp, Chair, Onondaga County Legislature; Hon. Pamela J. Hunter, assemblywoman, New York State Assembly, District 128; chair, Subcommittee on Women Veterans.
Lead Poisoning of Children in New York and Syracuse: Poverty, Race, & Environmental Injustice
Moderator: Nancy Mudrick, professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work,
Panelists: Sandy Lane, professor of public health and anthropology, Syracuse University, Research Professor Upstate Medical University; Robert Searing, curator of history, Onondaga Historical Association; Hon. Joe Driscoll, 5th District councilor, Syracuse Common Council, founder, Syracuse Lead Prevention Coalition; Kelly J. Mikullitz, Esq., supervising partner, O’Connell and Aronowitz Lead Poisoning and Toxic Exposure Litigation Group and first vice president, Brain Injury Association of New York State.
The Lived Experience: How Lead Poisoning Affects the Lives of Children, Families, and Service Providers
Moderator, Carrie Smith, associate professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work
Panelists: Darlene Medley, parent and member, Families for Lead Freedom Now; Oliviere Sekarore, bridging case manager, Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE), and; Ellen Morrissey, grandmother, member, Families for Lead Freedom Now, and founder of an online lead poisoning support group.
Public/Private Collaborations to End Lead Poisoning in Syracuse
Moderator, Stefanie R. Pilkay, assistant professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work
Panelists: Peter Dunn, president & CEO Central New York Community Foundation; Stefanie Pasquale, commissioner, Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, City of Syracuse; Debra Lewis, MSW, lead program coordinator, Onondaga County Department of Health; Paul Ciavarri, community development organizer, Community Counsel Project of Legal Services of Central New York.
The day-long event concluded with comments from Professor Kingson and MSW graduate student, Ellan Ryan. Ryan served as the student conference coordinator working closely with event organizers Professors Kingson and Carrie Jefferson Smith, along with director of the School of Social Work and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Syracuse University, Keith Alford.
School of Social Work alumnus, James L. Stone, MSW ’64 created an endowed fund to support this event into the future and was involved in this year’s event. “Once again, the School of Social Work has brought together an amazing and informative panel of experts, law makers and committed community leaders who bring clarity, understanding, and passion to a significant issue that is relevant to social work practice and policy. We are indebted to James Stone for his generosity in endowing this event,” says Diane Lyden Murphy, Dean, Falk College.
School of Social Work Sponsors “Theater of War”
On Oct. 17, members of the Syracuse-area professional community gathered on Syracuse University’s South Campus for a full day of veteran cultural competency training followed by “Theater of War,” an innovative public health project designed to encourage thought and discussion around the impact of war and its challenges faced by military service members, veterans, their caregivers and their families.
Sponsored by the Falk College School of Social Work, “Theater of War” attendees learned best practices for delivering quality, culturally competent care and education for veterans and military families as well as how to acquire and implement the strategies for optimizing their performance and growth. Upon program completion, each participant earned 7.25 credits in evidence-based veteran cultural competence training.
“Trainings like this go a long way in creating more military-friendly communities and workplaces,” says Ken Marfilius, a United States Air Force veteran and professor in the Falk College’s School of Social Work. “The University’s readiness to provide this type of impact program speaks to the institution’s long-standing commitment to the military community and helps those who serve and employ veterans to bridge the military-civilian divide.”
“I know firsthand the power of experiential education,” said Tracy Walker, director of field instruction in the School of Social Work. “This program did a tremendous job engaging learners intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically. It caused me to put myself in a soldier’s shoes in a way that I have never done before and it resulted in my deepening respect and compassion for our soldiers.”
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.
O’Donnell Honors Family Heritage in Military Service, Now Serves Fellow Veterans Through Social Work
Everyone remembers where they were when they first heard the news. It was a day that lives were changed forever. Yet in the midst of devastating loss on Sept. 11, 2001, many responded in the spirit of courage and hope. Nathan O’Donnell ’20 was one of them.
A high school student at the time, O’Donnell decided to join the U.S. Air Force upon graduation. “I felt called to serve my country,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and use the skills that the Lord gave me to serve our nation.”
O’Donnell shares in a family legacy of military service. His father served in the Army for four years, and his two younger brothers are in the Air Force. “Growing up, I was always proud of my family’s accomplishments and service,” he says. “I am very honored to have the opportunity to serve with them and continue to honor our family name.”
His paternal grandfather, Edward Joseph O’Donnell, served in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army for a total of 26 years. He enlisted at age 17 before finishing high school. When he returned to Syracuse after World War II, he enrolled in business administration at Syracuse University in the late 1940s.
Today, his grandson Nathan is following in his footsteps as he finishes his junior year at the University.
Born and raised in Syracuse, O’Donnell has many memories of cheering on the Orange in the Carrier Dome. He always dreamed of attending his hometown university, but he had other goals in mind following high school. “I wanted to serve in the military and have the chance to see the world.”
Little did he know his time in the military would later lead him to study at Syracuse University. “While in the military, I had the opportunity to do a few different jobs,” he says. “I enlisted initially as an F-15 Eagle maintainer and later cross-trained into the medical career field as a mental health technician and substance abuse counselor. I really enjoyed working with my fellow service members and their families to overcome challenges.”
O’Donnell’s experience as a mental health technician inspired him to continue his life of service, this time in the field of human services. That’s when he enrolled in the School of Social Work in Falk College. “I am so blessed to have the opportunity later in life to make my dream come true and attend Syracuse.”
With the help of dedicated staff in the school’s Office of Field Instruction and their many connections with agencies and organizations throughout the region, O’Donnell completed an internship at the Syracuse Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in the fall, where he hopes to start his career as a social worker. “I would first like to work at the VA in order to give back to fellow veterans.” He envisions someday taking his skills to other settings, as well, including the Syracuse public school system.
In the meantime, connecting with others in the University’s veteran community continues to be a major highlight of his college experience. “It has been fun to see what classes we have together,” he says. “We are able to go through the same experiences together.”
O’Donnell says he has found a supportive community at Syracuse: “Overall, my experience as a student veteran at Syracuse has been amazing. There have been so many people that have been put in my path that have been so helpful and welcoming. My transition from military service to civilian and student life could not have gone more smoothly. Syracuse University is truly a place for veterans.”
After completing his bachelor’s degree, O’Donnell plans to continue his education at Syracuse and pursue a master of social work degree.
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, Ph.D., Yvonne Smith, Ph.D., Collin Gooley, and Brooks Gump, Ph.D. at Syracuse University; Karen Wolford, Ph.D. 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.”
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