(June 19, 2019) -- To advance important conversations during Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) will host Willie Hale, an assistant professor of psychology and PTSD researcher, as its sixth speaker in the UTSA 50th Anniversary Scholars Speaker Series on Tuesday, June 25. At the lecture, which is free and open to the public, Hale will discuss “Piecing Together the PTSD Puzzle: Using Data to Understand Who Gets Better and Why.”
PTSD can impact anyone who has experienced a trauma, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD. A trauma is a shocking and dangerous event that a person has either witnessed or personally experienced. The VA says that approximately 11 to 20% of post-9/11 veterans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives following a deployment.
“This topic is important to our city, given San Antonio's designation as Military City, USA, and UTSA has an immense amount of research underway to address PTSD,” said Hale. “Nearly everyone in the city is connected to a current or former service member and, odds are, they know someone who has experienced symptoms of PTSD. I believe this talk is important to help dispel myths about PTSD and to educate the public about effective treatments.”
With its keen commitment to student success, UTSA has been recognized not only as a top urban serving university, but also, is in the top ten Military Friendly Universities in the country. Nearly 15% of the university’s student population includes active duty military members, veterans, reserves/guard members, ROTC and spouses or dependents.
Texas is home to over 117,000 active duty service members, the third largest active military population of any state in the nation. One-fourth are at Joint Base San Antonio. Veterans comprise over 12% of San Antonio’s adult population.
Hale acknowledges that anyone will benefit from his upcoming talk, but it will particularly speak to current and former service members, their family members and their friends.
“The material I plan to present will really shine a light on how we treat PTSD and, more importantly, how we can use what we have learned from our previous work to improve how we treat patients going forward,” said Hale.
The UTSA researcher will show how easily identifiable risk or protective factors can make an impactful difference to treatment outcomes, with the hopes that one day mental health treatment providers will be able to take a personalized medicinal approach to treating patients. He will also share data indicating how various treatments for PTSD work and explain the ways in which unexpected psychological processes challenge theoretical models of PTSD.
“Due to advances in statistical modeling and machine learning, we can now routinely examine treatment data in ways that were unimaginable even five years ago,” said Hale. “We can get under the hood, so-to-speak, and figure out why some treatments work for some individuals and not for others.”
He added, “Using data to figure out what works, why it works and for whom it works is dramatically expanding our understanding of PTSD and other mental health conditions. Being able to creatively and critically explore existing PTSD treatment data can actually prove to be magical, helping us identify patterns and test questions that past researchers could only speculate about.”
Hale is an assistant professor of psychology in the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts where he is dedicated to research excellence and solving today’s grand challenges related to PTSD. His research focuses on how interpersonal perception influences feelings of belongingness as well as how individuals with PTSD see the world and its events as ordered, manageable and meaningful. These feelings and perceptions have strong links to the severity of PTSD that an individual may experience, as well to suicidal thoughts.
Hale currently oversees the UTSA Investigating Models of Psychological Adjustment, Coherence and Trauma (IMPACT) Laboratory and collaborates extensively with members of the STRONGSTAR Consortium and the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD, initiatives that are both based at UT Health San Antonio.
“I would hope that people would leave this talk with a more nuanced understanding of PTSD, how it is treated, and how we can use data from past patients to refine and improve treatments for future patients. I desire to offer hope for those with PTSD and their families,” he said.
The UTSA lecture is scheduled at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25 at the Blue Star Contemporary Center, 116 Blue Star. Doors to the venue, which includes a cash bar, will open at 6 p.m. Hale will begin speaking at 6:30 p.m. and be available to meet with attendees and answer questions at 7:15, after the completion of the event.
To celebrate 50 years as San Antonio’s urban serving university and to thank San Antonio for its support and commitment to higher education, UTSA is presenting its 50th Anniversary Scholars Speaker Series throughout 2019, featuring experts on a broad range of contemporary issues that impact society today.
Learn more about the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts.
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
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