Mclean Hospital

Gift Propels Trauma Research, Care, and Training to New Levels

January 15, 2018

McLean is home to a number of prominent clinicians who provide some of the country’s most specialized care for individuals suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Its researchers are leading the scientific front by exploring the environmental, genetic, and neurobiological components of trauma-related disorders. And the hospital has a growing effort to disseminate models of trauma-informed care across the full spectrum of its clinical programs.

Now, a $2.5 million anonymous gift will create opportunities to augment and integrate these efforts, with the goal of making meaningful advances through trauma research, care, and training.

McLean researchers
McLean investigators and clinicians are at the forefront of trauma research and treatment

“This magnificent gift is a game-changer for the field because it will accelerate progress in understanding the role of trauma in psychiatric illness and the factors that enhance resilience,” explained Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, James and Patricia Poitras Chair in Psychiatry, who is heading up the Initiative for Integrated Trauma Research, Care, and Training. Ressler is an internationally renowned translational scientist whose expertise lies in explaining how fear works in the mammalian brain.

The gift was inspired by the expertise of McLean’s clinicians and researchers who are leading the field in understanding and treating trauma-related disorders. That expertise includes residential care for male and female police officers, firefighters, and military personnel; a program for women with histories of severe childhood abuse; and trauma-informed care for adolescents. Similarly, McLean is pioneering in its research approach through Dr. Ressler’s Neurobiology of Fear Laboratory and Dr. Milissa Kaufman’s Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program, as two examples.

It is estimated that about eight percent of Americans will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives, and women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men. People who have experienced trauma also are more vulnerable to mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders as well as suicide.

The donors hope McLean’s efforts will lead to more effective treatments for those who have suffered trauma, as well as better ways to prevent trauma’s harmful, long-term effects.

A steering committee, comprised of trauma researchers and clinicians from across McLean, will work with Dr. Ressler to direct how the funds are spent. A half million dollars will support immediate projects, such as pilot research, post-doctoral research fellowships, clinician training, and other prioritized initiatives that lack funding sources. The remaining $2 million endowment will support trauma-related efforts over the long term.

“Our goals are ambitious, but reachable thanks to this extraordinary gift,” said Dr. Ressler.