Stacey Young-McCaughan is being honored as a Women Veteran Leaders Champion of Change.
What an incredible honor it is to be named by the White House as a Champion of Change. While the award recognizes people attempting a seemingly impossible task—changing systems from the bottom up—I have seen that good ideas are infectious and spread like wildfire.
It has been my good fortune, in my military and post-military careers, to be part of complex systems and multi-disciplinary teams spurring and promoting great ideas, particularly when it comes to improvements in military and veteran health.
As a registered nurse with a doctoral degree in physiological nursing, I joined the Army Nurse Corps right out of college, eager for the wide range of nursing experiences it offered and the opportunity to care for our Service Members and their families. That 29-year career included a variety of clinical and research positions with a primary focus in oncology. It also led me to assignments as Deputy Director of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs; Chief of Evidence-Based Practice for the U.S. Army Medical Command Quality Management Division; Chief of Nursing Research and Chief of Clinical Investigation for Brooke Army Medical Center.
The patients I cared for taught me great courage in the face of life-threatening disease and injury. The cancer survivors I worked with taught me the power of advocacy. The individuals who participated in my research operationalized the joy of discovery as well as the challenge of moving research into practice.
Upon my retirement from the Army, an opportunity with the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio presented a new challenge. Lt Col (retired) Alan Peterson, PhD, a former Air Force psychologist, asked me to join a world-class, multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research consortium that he directs. STRONG STAR, or the South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience, was funded in 2008 by the Defense Department to improve prevention and treatment efforts for combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and comorbid conditions among military service members and recently discharged Veterans.
In August 2014, President Obama announced that our group would lead the new DoD-VA-funded Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP), one of two consortia established as part of a National Research Action Plan to improve care for those suffering from the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
Serving as part of the incredible STRONG STAR and CAP teams as Director of Research has allowed me to continue working with military providers and researchers in a highly meaningful way, as together we strive to develop and evaluate the best methods for helping our nation’s war fighters recover from the psychological wounds of war. It has been exciting to work alongside Dr. Peterson and other esteemed colleagues to establish a highly effective research infrastructure to support 24 ongoing projects; over 20 collaborating civilian, military, and VA institutions; and over 130 partnering investigators.
Particularly exciting is that over 1,000 Service Members and Veterans have been recruited into clinical trials testing evidence-based treatments from the civilian world for their effectiveness with combat-related PTSD, and that I’m able to direct my own project testing an exercise intervention for PTSD.
As STRONG STAR and the CAP move forward, we continue to look for opportunities to advance the care of our military members exposed to combat trauma. We believe that PTSD can be cured and that striving for anything less is a disservice to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way in service to our nation. Our challenge is making health possible.
Stacey Young-McCaughan, RN, PhD is a Professor in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Director of Research for the STRONG STAR Multi-disciplinary Research Consortium designed to understand, prevent, and treat combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder and comorbid conditions among military Service Members and recently discharged Veterans.