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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


VA Docs Return From Japan

Emergency vehicles staging in the ruins of Sukuiso Japan following the tsunami. (Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy)

Emergency vehicles staging in the ruins of Sukuiso Japan following the tsunami. (Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center mental health professionals, Dr. Peter Tuerk and Dr. Matt Yoder, recently returned from Japan where they trained students and faculty in evidence-based Post Traumatic Stress Disorders following the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami. 

The doctors, who are also on staff at the Medical University of South Carolina, conducted the training programs at the request of Tokyo Medical University to MUSC.

“PTSD therapy is like psychological first aid,” said Yoder.  “We assisted those already in the professional by training them in the techniques we use here to promote resiliency and create plans for them to be able to help people down the line.”

Yoder explained that with a developed country like Japan, there are already natural support systems in place.

“Our role was to provide more tools for PTSD therapy to those who are part of that natural support system,” he said.

They did visit local communities and talk to community members affected by the devastation, but their primary goal was on assisting the Japanese therapists.

“The victimologists were interested in what they could do for the communities,” said Tuerk.  “Our focus was to educate them on evidence-based therapies, like Prolonged Exposure, that we use here at the VA.”

Tuerk explained that the risk of PTSD during a trauma is 10 to 30%.

“The increase in risk is lack of resources.  In this case, homes and communities were completely lost,” Tuerk said.  “When the community is gone, the resources are gone.  The risk goes up.  But Prolonged Exposure therapy works regardless of the trauma.”



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