Contact Information

Psychiatry: Faculty and Staff


Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
Department of Psychiatry
4301 Jones Bridge Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4799
Phone: (301) 295-3294
Fax: (301) 295-1536
Email: robert.ursano@usuhs.edu

Pubmed listing

Robert J. Ursano, M.D., Chair, Department of Psychiatry

Robert J. Ursano, M.D.

Director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress
Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Chair Department of Psychiatry

Robert J. Ursano, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland. He is founding Director of the internationally recognized Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress which has more than $20 million dollars in research funding. In addition, Dr. Ursano is Editor of Psychiatry, the distinguished journal of interpersonal and biological processes, founded by Harry Stack Sullivan. Dr Ursano completed twenty years service in USAF medical corps and retired as Colonel in 1991.

Dr. Ursano was educated at the University of Notre Dame and Yale University School of Medicine and did his psychiatric training at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center and Yale University. Dr. Ursano graduated from the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute in 1986 and is a member of the teaching faculty of the Institute. Dr. Ursano served as the Department of Defense representative to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health and is a past member of the Veterans Affairs Mental Health Study Section and the National Institute of Mental Health Rapid Trauma and Disaster Grant Review Section. He is a Distinguished Life Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association. He is a Fellow of the American College of Psychiatrists, and of the American College of Psychoanalysts and is listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in Medicine and Health Care.

Dr. Ursano was the first Chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster. Through his work with the Committee, the American Psychiatric Association established a collaborative relationship with the Red Cross, the Bruno Lima Award, to recognize contributors to psychiatric care in times of disaster, and the Eric Lindemann Grant to support disaster services. This work greatly aided the integration of psychiatry and public health in times of disaster and terrorism.

His continued service and leadership in committee activities has been instrumental to the development of the APA's disaster psychiatry training program, and to the development and widespread international dissemination of psychosocial support training for emergency responders after the December, 2007 Southeast Asian Tsunami and in the immediate and extended aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His Center's training and post-disaster health surveillance materials are currently being translated into Chinese to assist in the psychosocial response to recent earthquake victims.

Dr. Ursano was an invited participant to the White House Mental Health Conference in 1999. He has received the Department of Defense Humanitarian Service Award and the highest award of the International Traumatic Stress Society, The Lifetime Achievement Award, for "outstanding and fundamental contributions to understanding traumatic stress." He is the recipient of the William C. Porter Award from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, and a frequent advisor on issues surrounding psychological response to trauma to the highest levels of the US Government and specifically to the Department of Defense leadership. As a result of his widely recognized leadership in trauma and disaster preparedness and response, his was one of the first Centers recognized as a partnering center with the newly established Department of Defense National Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Dr. Ursano has served as a member of the Advisory Board of the National Partnership for Workplace Mental Health (American Psychiatric Association); the White Paper Panel on Bioterrorism and Health Care, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations; the Scientific Advisory Board on Bioterrorism of SAMSHA (HHS), Center for Mental Health Services; the Advisory Board of the Center on Terrorism of the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine; the National Academies of Science, Institute of Medicine, Committee on Psychological Responses to Terrorism, Committee on PTSD and Compensation and the Committee on Nuclear Preparedness; and the National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Mental Health Surveillance After Terrorist Attack. In addition he is a member of scientific advisory boards to the for HHS and the CDC.

Dr. Ursano has over 300 publications. He is co-author or editor of seven books. His publications include the internationally recognized volume Individual and Community Responses to Trauma and Disaster: The Structure of Human Chaos. (Cambridge University Press.) His 2007 Textbook of Disaster Psychiatry (Cambridge University Press) is the most comprehensive treatment of the subject to date. His books on psychotherapy have been translated and published in Russia, Turkey, China and Japan.

He is widely published in the areas of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the psychological effects of terrorism, bioterrorism, traumatic events and disasters and combat. He and his team have served as consultants and completed studies on numerous disasters, disaster rescue workers, motor vehicle accident victims, family violence, and Viet Nam, Desert Storm and Gulf War veterans. His research group completed the follow-up studies of the USAF Vietnam era prisoners of war, identifying the critical role of degree of exposure to outcome, resiliency, and the development of psychiatric disease in those with no known risk factors. He was part of the design of the repatriation of the Desert Storm prisoners of war. His work on disaster first responders is noted for the focus on public health needs. His group has studied the psychiatric responses of individuals to disasters and to small-scale traumatic events including motor vehicle collisions in order to better understand the human trauma response and its mechanisms of disease and recovery. His group was the first to identify increased rates of child neglect during the Iraq war deployments.

Dr. Ursano was instrumental in the efforts of a group of twenty of the world's most renowned experts in disaster mental health in an exhaustive review of the empirical evidence surrounding psychosocial intervention after disaster. This workgroup recently published "Five Essential Elements of Immediate and Mid-Term Mass Trauma Intervention: Empirical Evidence." This visionary multi-disciplinary effort synthesizes the wealth of international disaster mental health/public health intervention experience and study into basic principles which will inform subsequent development of disaster preparedness and response at the community, state, national, and international levels for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Ursano has provided input and leadership into the development and dissemination of clinical best practices for the treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. He chaired the American Psychiatric Association?s task force on Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This led to 2004 publication of the most comprehensive review and synthesis of the evidence basis for pharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatment of these disorders in the first edition of American Psychiatric Association?s Practice Guideline for the treatment of these illnesses. He has subsequently served in leadership positions on Institute of Medicine committees and task forces requested to develop policy guidance for disability evaluations related to PTSD and to review and synthesize treatment evidence developed since the publication of the APA guidelines.

Dr. Ursano and his group are at the forefront of public health policy planning for terrorism, and bioterrorism in particular and for the effects of war and deployment on military members and their families. Their work has been widely cited in government planning and Institute of Medicine, National Academies of Sciences reports addressing these issues. He was a national consultant for planning clinical care responses and research programs following the September 11th terrorist attacks, providing consultation to New York State Governor's Office, New York City Mayor's Office, Department of HHS, National Capital response teams and the Department of Defense Pentagon response groups. His group developed educational materials that were some of the most widely disseminated throughout the nation to assist populations exposed to the September 11 attack. Dr Ursano is on the Natonal Bioscience Advisory Board subcommittee for Mental Health to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services on needs for mental health in disaster. Dr Ursano is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising the director on preparedness and response for terrorism.

In addition to cutting edge public health policy and disaster response planning, Dr. Ursano continues to spearhead major advances in understanding the neurobiological processes of traumatic stress response. His efforts have led to the development of a first of its kind collaborative endeavor with Academic Centers including Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Washington, various Veteran?s Affairs Hospitals and the VA's National Center for PTSD to identify, collect, process, and distribute neural tissue for pathological, microcellular, and genetic studies of PTSD. Stemming from this ongoing collaboration Dr. Ursano and colleagues recently reported their identification of a potential genetic biomarker for PTSD, p11. This critical pioneering report of pilot data is the first of its kind in the scientific literature, and will certainly promote and inspire further research in this direction.

Dr. Ursano's research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, SAMSHA, CDC, NIOSH, the Sloan Foundation, the United States Army, the United States Air Force, and other national foundations and agencies.