Alumni Profile: Steven Gerard
Alumnus Helps Military Service Members Get Treatment for the Unseen Wounds of War
Steven Gerard arrived at Cal State San Marcos as a transfer student from Palomar College in 2007. Because of his curiosity and captivation with the complexity of human behavior, he majored in psychology and dove headfirst into the world of research methods, advanced statistics and industrial organizational psychology.
He joined Psi Chi and was invited into the Golden Key International Honor Society, and sought out opportunities to garner hands-on experience through internships and independent research.
“I wanted to make the most out of my time at CSUSM – I wanted to go above and beyond,” Steven said.
In his senior year, he accepted a clinical research internship at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in La Jolla. Through his connections at the VA, he found out about a research associate position at the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control (NCCOSC). He interviewed and started the job one week after graduation.
“NCCOSC’s mission is to promote force readiness through a commitment to psychological health. We work to facilitate clinical research that identifies the best practices in the prevention and treatment of combat and operational stress injuries for service members,” said Steven.
Steven can cite some of the most disheartening statistics about those who return from deployment in a combat zone. Somewhere between 16 and 20 percent of veterans who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from the “unseen injuries” of serving in a combat zone.“
The last 12 years of military involvement in two wars has brought about an overall, higher level of stress than ever before,” he said. "Many become used to living in high stress environments and after awhile the body recognizes this as a new norm. While this mentality keeps them alive while they are there, when they come home many can’t flip that switch — they suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep issues and depression.”
That’s where Steven and his colleagues’ work at NCCOSC comes in. Among his many duties, Steven helps screen and assess military service members for common psychiatric disorders through structured interviews and self-report measures. He also assists with designing studies, collecting data (through questionnaires and physiological evaluations), analyzing data, drafting reports and presentations, managing databases, in addition to performing literature reviews and recruiting study participants.
“I love my job,” said Steven. “I’m proof that persistence and curiosity can pay off. What we do at NCCOSC is so innovative — we are the harbingers for psychological health for military servicemembers. And having the opportunity to serve those who serve our country is an enormous reward.”
You can learn more about the work NCCOSC does at www.nccosc.navy.mil.
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