Who’s Who: Rachel Wamser-Nanney, PhD

Spring 2020

Rachel Wamser-Nanney, PhD
Rachel Wamser-Nanney, PhD
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Rachel Wamser-Nanney, PhD

1) What is your current occupation?

I am an Assistant Professor in Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri- St. Louis.

2) Where were you educated?

I completed my doctoral degree at the University of Missouri- St. Louis, including my predoctoral internship at Tulane University Health Sciences Center where I was fortunate enough to be part of the Tulane Infant Team which works with maltreating caregivers. I then completed my postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.

3) Why did you choose this field?

I became interested in traumatic stress after completing my first undergraduate research assistantship, which was focused on childhood trauma treatment at the Center for Trauma Recovery. As I entered treatment outcome data, I was struck by the efficacy of trauma-focused interventions for children. I really admired the dedicated and talented clinicians working on the project and aspired to be like them to also help trauma-exposed children. In spite of the horrific traumatic experiences these children had survived; there were so many stories of incredible resiliency. Every time I think back on it, I still find this experience really inspiring and motivating.

4) What is most rewarding about this work for you?

I find most aspects of my job incredibly rewarding- it is hard to pick one! I think it is such an honor to be a professor and teach future generations of undergraduate and graduate students. I really enjoy working with my students and enjoy their energy and excitement (it is contagious!). I am also humbled by and feel very privileged to hear people’s life stories and oftentimes their darkest moments, and to try to help them make sense of and contextualize their traumatic experiences.

5) What is most frustrating about your work?

Many of my clinical and research interests are in the areas of complex trauma, intergenerational trauma, and gun violence and I really enjoy working with under-served populations and maltreating caregivers. However, I find the lack of access to basic resources for these clients very disheartening. Over and over again, clients present to trauma-focused treatment (which is often heroic in itself for many reasons!) but do not have the luxury of focusing on mitigating their trauma symptoms due to trying to get their basic needs met. I feel strongly that, for many, their quality of life (and trauma symptoms) would be much improved if they had adequate housing and employment opportunities. I also find the very reactionary nature of our programming and funding sources frustrating- I wish that we would really focus on prevention, trauma-focused screenings, etc. and be more proactive at preventing trauma exposure and symptoms.

6) How do you keep your life in balance (i.e., what are your hobbies)?

I am grateful to be the mother of two girls (Charlotte age 2, Emma 3 months) and wife to my dear husband John. My family time keeps me balanced and passionate about my work. I also enjoy running, boxing, reading, art, and cooking. Running and boxing in particular have been instrumental in managing secondary traumatic stress.

7) What are your future plans?

My future plans include improving assessment and treatments for trauma-exposed families as well as further developing prevention interventions regarding gun violence.  I also hope to do more child maltreatment prevention work in the future and work to better support caregivers of trauma-exposed children.