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Ref: Medical University of South Carolina to study effects of disasters on mental health


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MUSC to Study Disasters' Effect on Mental Health

National Crime Victims' Center Lends Expertise to NIH-funded Center

CHARLESTON -- Five institutions were recognized for their expertise in the study of mental health in relation to traumatic experiences with a five-year, highly competitive $3.89 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct long-term studies that will address important questions concerning post-disaster resilience and wellness.

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) joined the lead investigative team for the national effort, Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Michigan, as well as Yale University and the University of Oklahoma in this collaborative effort to launch the National Center for Disaster Mental Health Research (NCDMHR).

The new centerís goal is two-fold. First, it seeks to establish the disaster research infrastructure needed to conduct a comprehensive research study of a major disaster. Once the infrastructure is in place, an actual study of a future natural disaster or terrorist attack can take place as it unfolds and in the long-term.

Dean Kilpatrick, Ph.D, MUSC National Crime Victimsí Center director and lead investigator for MUSCís site, said the center was unique because it brings together the nationís top talent in disaster research.

"We can design and implement the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the mental health impact of disasters," he said. "In addition to public health and biological studies of who develops problems and who is resilient after disasters, we will also be developing and testing new ways to prevent and treat disaster-related mental health problems."

NCDMHR director and principal investigator, Fran Norris, Ph.D., Dartmouth Medical School, along with NCDMHR co-principal investigator and research director Sandro Galea, University of Michigan School of Public Health, stressed the importance of the strong connections among all the experts housed within the partner institutions.

"We're going to capitalize on the expertise of professionals around the country to establish a center that is methodologically creative, capable of rapid response, and responsive to the needs of the scientific, policy, and practitioner communities," Norris said.

Experts involved with NCDMHR have experience in responding to and conducting mental health research in the wake of major disasters, such as Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, and Katrina; the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995; the 1999 mudslides in Mexico; the September 11 terrorist attacks; and the Madrid bombing in 2004.

Kilpatrick, along with MUSC site co-investigators Kenneth Ruggiero, Ph.D., and Ron Acierno, Ph.D., have more than 30 combined years of experience in disaster research and development of innovative related treatment strategies.

Many of the NCDMHR investigators affiliated from Dartmouth also are connected with the National Center for PTSD. The University of Michigan School of Public Health scientists bring expertise in post-disaster epidemiology and survey research. The researchers from Yale bring expertise in the neurobiology of human stress response. Leaders of the Child Trauma Network's Terrorism and Disaster Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center will help the NCDMHR develop a program of research in child epidemiology and services research.

"We know that disasters have a substantial influence on population health," says Galea. "We need to understand the health consequences of disasters much better than we do now in order to mitigate them."

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 10,000 employees, including 1,300 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.3 billion. MUSC operates a 600-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit or

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