The Wounds No One Can See

By Emily Gold Boutilier / May / June 2005
May 3rd, 2007

Max Cleland, former U.S. senator from Georgia, lost his right arm and both legs in Vietnam. But the emotional wounds "hurt the worst," he told the BAM this spring, "because no one else sees them." Cleland, who directed the VA under President Carter, was on campus to discuss a new Brown initiative called Pathways to Recovery from Combat, which includes studies on the longterm toll of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This isn't just a university grant," he said. "It's historic. It is ownership of the problem by the community."

Conceived by Steven Price '84, who donated seed money for the project, Pathways has since received $1 million from Congress for research on post-traumatic stress. Interim director Terrie Fox Wetle, associate dean of medicine for public health, says, "We are asking young people to put their lives and well-being at risk. We have an obligation." Soon, Pathways will be combined with Roy Aaron's biohybrid limb project, he says, in order to take a holistic approach to treatment.

Pathways research includes the following pilot studies:

Researcher: Mark Aloia, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior. Goal: To find out if sleep disturbances can predict a soldier's psychological adjustment to combat. Method: Track sleep patterns of troops who may be deployed into combat and those who've just returned from war.

Researcher: Tracie Shea, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior. Goal: To determine risk factors for chronic PTSD. Method: Conduct monthly interviews with returning soldiers who have PTSD.

Researcher: Linda Carpenter, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior. Goal: To predict who will have adverse mental health effects to combat. Method: Conduct stress tests on troops who may be deployed, interview them about their early life experiences, and inject them with a hormone the body makes when under stress. Retest when the troops return from war.

Researchers: Susan Allen '71, '92 PhD, associate professor of medical science, and Linda Resnik, assistant professor of community health. Goals: To quantify the unmet needs of injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Also to assess how injured soldiers are readjusting to civilian life. Methods: Interview injured soldiers and their families and caretakers about such things as medical care and health insurance. Later design a measurement tool to learn how soldiers are readjusting.

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May / June 2005