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Disaster Psychiatry

Since its establishment in 1987, the Center has helped shape the landscape of disaster mental health. Disaster mental health examines the impact and implications of individual, community and organizational responses to traumatic events from natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and the tsunami, to human made disasters such as the Gulf Oil Spill and terrorist events such as the Washington DC sniper attacks. Through research, education and consultation, the Center has been involved in nearly every major disaster our nation has faced in the past 25 years.

The Center is currently engaged in several important projects that address the psychological health and resilience of first responders and the role of collective efficacy in communities (i.e., conditions/resources within a group that lead to a shared vision and the capacity to produce effects for its members) in disaster response and recovery.

The Center also features the Disaster and Preventive Psychiatry (D&PP) Fellowship. This 2-year fellowship (open to military medical personnel) consists of a year in the Uniformed Services University M.P.H. program. The second year is spent with the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, in which the fellow continues to develop interests formulated in the first year.

Disaster Psychiatry Active Studies

Genetic Biomarkers for Attenuation of Fear Memory

The Genetic Biomarkers for Attenuation of Fear Memory study has found that administering corticosterone before exposure to stress can attenuate delayed and enhanced fear response in an animal model of PTSD. This research project, which seeks to provide a detailed cellular and molecular mechanism associated with energy bio-markers for the resilience of traumatic stress, will help in the development of a better therapeutic strategy for enhancing resilience in patients suffering from PTSD.

Psychological and Behavioral Responses in Public Health Workers

Partnering with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the University of Miami and the Florida Department of Health, Center scientists collected data as part of a multilevel, longitudinal study to understand the impact of the 2004 and 2005 Hurricanes on our nation’s first responders.

Center scientists examined community level data and found communities with lower rates of PTSD and PTSD symptoms were associated with higher rates of collective community efficacy. The implications of these findings, submitted in a qualitative paper, will help target more effective post disaster interventions and public health disaster care.

Psychological and Behavioral Responses in Public Health Workers: A Study of the Florida Department of Health to Multiple Hurricanes

Partnering with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the University of Miami and the Florida Department of Health, Center scientists have been collecting data as part of a multilevel, longitudinal study to understand the impact of the 2004 and 2005 Hurricanes on our nation’s first responders including Florida Department of Health personnel who assumed this role.

In 2010 Center scientists examined community level data and found that communities with lower rates of PTSD and PTSD symptoms were associated with higher rates of collective community efficacy. The implications of these findings, submitted in a qualitative paper, will help target more effective post disaster interventions and public health disaster care.