Sioux City Journal: Magnotta collaborates on study of veterans

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sioux City Journal

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota is assisting veterans who recently returned from active duty overseas.

Thanks to grants in 2010 totaling more than $5 million, neurobehavioral scientists at The U and the USD Department of Nursing are helping transitioning military personnel get back on their feet through a brain imaging and behavioral research program, and helping unemployed veterans find work and post-secondary education opportunities.

A $700,000 grant from the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) of the U.S. Army Medical Research Materiel Command addresses the needs of many service members returning to under-served rural communities, particularly troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).

Research in this area is significant given the problems associated with PTSD. The research uses detailed images of the brain, taken with functional magnetic resonance imaging while participants in the study think about either neutral or traumatic situations. The long-term goal of the research is to better identify, predict and treat PTSD not only in active service members and veterans, but also civilians encountering deeply stressful circumstances.

Research is being led by Dr. Gina Forster, Sanford School of Medicine of The University of South Dakota, and brings together clinical psychologists Drs. Raluca Gaher and Jeffrey Simons of the USD Psychology Department, with neural imaging expert Dr. Vincent Magnotta of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and neurologist Dr. Xuesheng Feng of the Sioux Falls Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton, S.D., is providing the imaging technology to support the research. The South Dakota National Guard is also collaborating with USD and Avera Sacred Heart Hospital to help disseminate information about this research to Guard members throughout the state.

“Neuroscience and behavioral science research is a high priority area for USD,” said Laura Jenski, Ph.D., vice president of research at The U. “Collaborations with Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, South Dakota National Guard and Sioux Falls VA Medical Center are essential to bringing this university research into the clinic and to society.”

Additionally, USD is supporting unemployed veterans and troops returning from overseas with training opportunities to find work in entry level health care fields and go back to school to further their education in nursing. Currently, active duty veterans experience unemployment rates between 11 and 21 percent, a higher average than the general public.

The USD Department of Nursing is one of only eight institutions - out of 55 - to receive a maximum grant of $5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to allow for the recruitment of unemployed veterans and military personnel who are interested in entry level health care positions in long-term care centers and rural hospitals; provide opportunities for these health care workers to pursue nursing careers while continuing employment with a primary health care partner; promote the graduate degrees required of nursing faculty; and the purchase of a mobile simulation unit to bring state-of-the-art clinical and skills laboratory experiences to USD nursing students in multiple states.