1) What is your current occupation?
I am a clinical research psychologist at the Veterans Affairs (VA) VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans. My research focuses on the intersection between trauma exposure and suicide risk. I examine novel mechanisms for suicide risk in trauma exposed veterans, with a particular emphasis on social risk factors. Then, I work to translate these factors into new interventions for suicide risk. I hold an appointment at Texas A&M Health Science Center at the rank of Assistant Professor.
I am also the Director of the VA Patient Safety Center of Inquiry – Suicide Prevention Collaborative, along with my colleague Dr. Justin Benzer who is an implementation scientist. Our center seeks to develop novel methods of suicide prevention for veterans who are not connected to VA healthcare, with a particular emphasis on leveraging implementation science in this endeavor.
2) Where were you educated?
I attended New York University for my undergraduate degree, where I majored in psychology and fine arts. I completed my doctoral training in clinical psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park.
3) Why did you choose this field?
After September 11th, 2001, several of my family members and friends enlisted in the military and were deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan. One of my friends was killed instantly when his Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq. As trauma, PTSD, and suicide risk in our veterans became more widely recognized, I realized that I could use my skills to contribute to the knowledge base on these topics. I had an opportunity to start a career in VA conducting research, which I took, and now I’ve been doing this work for 7 years.
4) What is most rewarding about this work for you?
The most rewarding thing about this work is to be able to make a difference in so many lives. In research, you can both directly affect the lives of your participants and also the lives of many others through research findings.
5) What is most frustrating about your work?
I love when projects move quickly, however, that is often not the case in research. There are many setbacks and stumbling blocks. I started doing research in 2002 as an undergraduate and over the years I’ve learned to be positive and moving forward step by step to get the projects done.
6) How do you keep your life in balance (e.g., what are your hobbies)?
I keep my life in balance by spending time with my family, hiking, traveling, cooking, and crafting.
7) What are your future plans
My future plans are to continue to conduct research on the intersection between trauma and suicide risk with the goal of improving the lives of veterans.