Dallas VA Psychologist Wins Award for PTSD Research - VA North Texas Health Care System
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Dallas VA Psychologist Wins Award for PTSD Research

Director Jeffery L. Milligan; Chief of Staff Dr. Clark Gregg; Dr. Alina Suris; Dr. Munro Cullum from UT Southwestern; and Drs. James LePage, Cate Orsak and Carol North.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Congratulations to Alina Suris, PhD, ABPP, for winning The American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists (AACP) 2012 George Winokur Research Award. Dr. Suris is Chief of Psychology at VA North Texas Health Care System.

The win was prompted by her research which studied the effects of exogenous glucocortoids, also known as cortisol in humans, on combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The study's aim was to assess the effectiveness of a procedure using glucocortoids to reduce clinical symptoms in Veterans with combat-related PTSD.

How do glucocortoids work?

Glucucortoids are a class of hormones released when people become stressed. Cortisol is responsible in shutting down the stress response after a threat is over and returning the body to a state of homeostasis, which is balance. When people develop PTSD, this system is out of balance.

By administering a glucocortoid to a Veteran shortly after having them recall a specific distressing combat memory, the goal is to decrease the impact of the traumatic memory by creating neutral or less upsetting connections to the memory. By decreasing the emotional intensity of the traumatic combat memory, it is likely that the impact of clinical symptoms will also decrease.

Traditional evidence-based therapy, like Prolonged Exposure Therapy,  requires Veterans to repeatedly retell their traumatic combat memory during sessions until a reduction in subjective anxiety is reported. "Such treatments, though effective, can be both time-intensive and emotionally tough for Veterans," Dr. Suris said. "We want to significantly shorten the length of exposure-based therapy while still achieving symptom reduction."

Dr. Suris works with other researchers at Dallas VA Medical Center who perform studies and clinical trials that directly benefit Veteran patient care. Other VA psychiatrists involved in the glucocortoid research were Drs. Carol North, Byron Adinoff and Robert Greene.

Although this study is closed, Dr. Suris has several ongoing studies to examine novel treatments that are currently recruiting Veterans with PTSD. Veterans interested can call (214) 857-1014 to inquire about eligibility criteria.


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