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New psychology specialty trains grad students to work with veterans, families

January 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Wayne Armstrong/DU photographer)
A hospital corpsman assigned to Marine units throughout his wartime career is looking out for his fellow troops as a civilian now, and his new job involves giving more people that same opportunity.

The desire to give back — continuing to serve — is a frequent theme among today's veterans. Knowing what many fellow vets have been dealing with these past years, their hearts go out to the military community in particular — and that’s where the University of Denver’s Sturm Specialty in Military Psychology comes in.

The specialty track within the institution’s “Psy.D” or psychology doctoral program welcomed its first class of graduate students in the fall. Several were veterans or currently serving, and vets were prominent among applicants for the second cohort, said Jacob Hyde, the former Navy corpsman who is now faculty director over the speciality.

Hyde is the veteran of a 2006-07 Iraq deployment with the 2nd Marine Division. During graduate school, he trained for two years at the only medical center run jointly by the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments — the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Illinois. Hyde worked a year each at the Boise and Phoenix VA facilities before accepting the position in Denver to shape and lead the new academic specialty, created in partnership with the Sturm Family Foundation.

Requirements to complete the specialty are four courses, plus clinical training at the Sturm Center, the program’s off-campus clinic.

The academic courses:

  • Military Culture and Psychology: Military history, structure and recent Middle East conflicts from a multicultural perspective.
  • Psychology and Physiology of Operating in Extreme Environments: Human performance in extreme environments in light of operational psychology. 
  • Evidence-based Assessment and Treatment of Military-related Health Disparities: Health disparities endemic to military and veteran populations with an examination of primary literature, psychological assessment tools and treatment protocols.
  • Behavioral Medicine and Interprofessional Healthcare in Military and Veterans: The intersection of physical health, behavior and cognition; plus collaboration on interprofessional health care teams in the medical center environment.
One-on-one training at the new community clinic in neighboring Aurora, overseen by clinic director Katy Barrs, completes the specialty. Barrs is a 2007 graduate of the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology and worked for the VA in Minneapolis, Boston and Denver.

The clinic is open to all veterans, current troops, spouses, partners, children, other family members, etc., regardless of discharge status.

For students interested in the Sturm Specialty in Military Psychology, applications are in the fall.

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