Apr 222013

ECU Notes

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The six-inch scar on Ty Shaw’s left leg is a lasting reminder of a mortar blast he suffered while on patrol in Iraq.

Shaw’s rehabilitation was long. He jogged for the first time three years after his injury. Now he is a civilian military police officer at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Helping service members, families and veterans like Shaw cope with the physical and mental injuries of war is the focus of a new distance education rehabilitation counseling course at East Carolina University.

Nineteen graduate students are enrolled this semester in the first offering of military and trauma counseling taught by Dr. Mark Stebnicki, professor of addictions and rehabilitation studies in the College of Allied Health Sciences. Dr. Lloyd Goodwin, professor in the department, proposed the course two years ago based on the emerging population and need, Stebnicki said.

Stebnicki is using 30-minute interviews with veterans like Shaw, families of military members, a flight surgeon and others to share personal stories and teach students about the tradition, terminology and culture of the armed forces. ECU’s Multimedia Technology Services records the interviews.

Videotaped lectures, presentations, articles, readings and blog posts supplement the case studies. Topics vary from transitioning from active duty to civilian life to the impact of war on families.

The course will be included in the Military and Trauma Counseling Certificate program starting this fall. The online program for professional counselors will focus on the military’s unique medical, psychosocial, vocational and mental health needs and traumatic experiences, Stebnicki said.

Military and trauma counseling incorporates training in civilian disaster and crisis response ranging from floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes to plant explosions, workplace and school violence or bank robberies.

“We tend to think of first responders as paramedics, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, but from the mental health side, we do the mental health response,” Stebnicki said.

The course is culturally sensitive to soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and women, Coast Guard and National Guard members and reservists.

While service members prepare for combat and the possibility of injury or death, “seeing someone get blown up in front of you has a terrific psychological cost to it,” Stebnicki said. “Everybody heals at their own rate and all don’t respond to one treatment method.”

Early diagnosis and treatment of PTSD along with other conditions like depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorder is important because untreated PTSD can progress to more severe, chronic mental health conditions, Stebnicki said.

“At this time in history, we have more suicide completions among service members than ever before,” Stebnicki said. “It puts a finger on why we need mental health services. We can’t ignore it.”

Shaw returned to the United States after his injury in March 2003. He did not realize he had PTSD at first.

“I had an injury to deal with, but then, I found myself getting more angry,” Shaw, who worked with counselors from Veterans Affairs and Veterans of Foreign Wars along with physical and occupational therapists, said.

The stigma that has come with mental health treatment — that service members should not show vulnerability or risk repercussions — may still exist but is less pronounced, Stebnicki said.

“There are more mental health services on base now than any war ever because we’re starting to see the impact of PTSD,” he said.

In Iraq, Shaw supported infantry units trained in anti-mine warfare and provided support in explosives, engineering and other areas. He often wore protective clothing, and carried a gas mask at all times. All the things he did, from pushing abandoned cars out of the way so Humvees could maneuver, to keeping civilians at a safe distance, or guarding against the constant threat of snipers, caused anxiety.

“You’re running on adrenaline. It’s draining in and of itself, and when you try to sleep, you don’t get a lot of sleep,” Shaw said. “It’s stressful.”

Shaw, originally from Longview, Wash., received a Purple Heart for his service with the U.S. Marines from August 2001 until June 2004.

It has been 10 years since his injury; he was one of the first hurt in the invasion of Iraq.

“You have to have the mindset you want to get better,” Shaw said. “You have to have the will.”


Student lands NOAA scholarship

An EC Scholar and ECU Honors College student has landed a scholarship and internship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Thomas Vaughan, a sophomore from Murfreesboro, was awarded the Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship on April 1. Only 126 students nationwide were selected for the honor this year, which is valued at $30,000.

Vaughan is pursuing a degree in applied atmospheric science. Launched in 2010, the new degree program is one of the things that drew him to ECU.

“The applied component (of Vaughan’s degree) is consistent with the goals of NOAA,” said Dr. Scott Curtis, associate professor of geography and advisor to Vaughan. “Thomas is learning how to apply the physical principles of the atmosphere to remote sensing, geographic information science (GIS), GPS and other spatial tools that help meteorologists better collaborate with other scientists and communicate with the public.”

As part of the Honors College, Vaughan was encouraged by faculty and administrators to apply for the Hollings Scholarship. Honors College Faculty Fellow Dr. Tim Runyan took Vaughan to visit NOAA’s National Weather Service station at Newport/Morehead City to help inspire the essay required as part of the scholarship application.

“The Honors College student experience at ECU combines classroom and out-of-class learning,” Dr. Richard Eakin, dean of the Honors College, where the program is housed, said. “We encourage our students to seek scholarships and internships that broaden that learning as they prepare for their life’s work.”

Vaughan could be placed at any U.S. NOAA office for his summer 2014 internship. He is hoping, however, for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

“Growing up near the coast and experiencing hurricanes made me interested in tropical meteorology,” Vaughan said.

Plus, he added, he is just not cut out for snow.


Upcoming Events


  • Wednesday: The 50th Anniversary of Desegregation Committee presents poet Nikki Giovanni, 7 p.m. Wright Auditorium. During the past 30 years, Giovanni has fought for civil rights and equality through her work as a poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator. Free and open to the public, but a ticket is required. Call 328-4788 or 1-800-ECU-ARTS.
  • Thursday: Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers presents “Strong!”, 7 p.m., Greenville Museum of Art, Evans Street. The film is based at a gym in an industrial park in northern New Jersey. Filmmaker Julie Wyman will attend the screening. Sponsored by the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series, the event is free and open to the public. More information at http://www.ecu.edu/srapas.
  • Thursday-Saturday: “The Furies,” 8 p.m. McGinnis Theatre. It is the final play in a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus, to be performed by the ECU/Loessin Playhouse. Tickets $12.50 for adults, $10 for students. Contact McGinnis Theatre Box Office at 328-6829.

via The Daily Reflector.


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