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Collaboration for change

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Joe Ruzek, former Director of the Dissemination and Training Division of the US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, has a longstanding respect for how Australia has contributed to improving the understanding of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When he joined the US National Center for PTSD 26 years ago, Joe was studying PTSD and its treatment and, through his research, he became aware of the ground-breaking work already being done in the field in Australia.

“Australian programs for veterans with PTSD were some of the only programs in the world to have been evaluated. So, way back then, I became a fan of much of the way this country worked with its veterans,” says Joe.

Now an Associate Research Professor with the Palo Alto University, Joe is collaborating with the Centenary of Anzac Centre on a range of future projects. During a recent three-day visit, he met with staff and attended a series of brainstorming meetings to discuss opportunities.

“The Centenary of Anzac Centre has experience in developing and testing interventions and training, and in advising organisations that serve veterans. They have deep experience – clinical, consultative, firsthand and research-based,” says Joe.

“During the three days of meetings, we looked at the exciting work Australians are doing with veterans and how to strengthen and add to those initiatives. It was a reflection process and a chance to think about things that might be done differently.”

Joe’s professional interest in PTSD began after he studied clinical psychology. He became particularly involved in developing early intervention programs that limit the impacts of PTSD, a path that led him to the National Center of PTSD.

He is still firmly committed to helping find the most effective treatments for PTSD sufferers and to ensuring that those treatments are on the radar of health professionals.

“Phoenix Australia produces first rate research in this field. But there is a general problem in the sphere of physical and mental health that when things are found to be effective, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be applied. The average health care provider doesn’t necessarily digest cutting edge research,” Joe explains.

In the coming months, Joe will focus on helping the Centenary of Anzac Centre to make an even bigger difference to practitioners and the communities they work with.

He says, “I’m very excited to be working with the Centenary of Anzac Centre team, to look at the research initiatives and how we can build those, and how we can better support and strengthen the ability of practitioners to effectively meet the needs of veterans and other communities affected by trauma.”