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For her work in the assessment and treatment of acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and dissociative disorders, McLean Hospital’s Milissa Kaufman, MD, PhD, was honored with the 2018 Cornelia B. Wilbur Award from the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). The ISSTD is an international professional association that develops and promotes “comprehensive, clinically effective, and empirically-based resources and responses to trauma and dissociation.”
Presented annually since 1985, the award is given to an individual who has made “outstanding clinical contributions to the treatment of complex trauma and dissociative disorders.” Kaufman received her award at the 2018 ISSTD Annual Conference held in March in Chicago, Illinois, following in the footsteps of one of her mentors, James Chu, MD, who received this award in 1991 for his own pioneering work at McLean Hospital.
Kaufman has been involved in the study and treatment of PTSD and dissociative disorders for over 20 years. She is currently the medical director of McLean’s Hill Center for Women, a clinical program specializing in the treatment of PTSD, and the co-medical director with Beth L. Murphy, MD, PhD, of the Mood, Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma Track in the LEADER Outpatient Clinic, a clinical program specializing in the treatment of emergency response personnel. In addition, Dr. Kaufman is the founder and director of the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Research Program, where she investigates the neurobiology of dissociation in women with histories of childhood abuse. She also runs the trauma psychiatry didactics curriculum at the MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program.
In her ongoing work, Kaufman focuses on women with experiences of childhood trauma and seeks to understand the subjective experience and brain mechanisms underlying complex PTSD and dissociative disorders. “I wanted to do this research because these conditions are understudied, underfunded, and undertreated,” she explained.
Moreover, she said, these conditions are misunderstood by the general population as well as many clinicians. “We want to dispel myths and destigmatize complex PTSD and dissociative disorders,” said Kaufman. “Our work is helping to familiarize the scientific community about these issues—and get individuals who often are excluded as participants in trauma studies to become part of the research.” Her work currently is partially funded through a grant she received from the National Institutes of Mental Health.
On winning the Cornelia B. Wilbur Award, Kaufman thanked her many research colleagues as well as clinicians, leaders, and administrators for their support and expertise. Specifically, she thanked her co-primary investigator Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, project leads Lauren A.M. Lebois, PhD, and Jonathan Wolff, BS, and other McLean collaborators including Staci Gruber, PhD, Justin T. Baker, MD, PhD, and Sherry R. Winternitz, MD. “I’m grateful to collaborate with so many outstanding scientists and others who elevate the work,” she said.