UAMS Clinic Focuses On Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Holland Doran

Trauma results from an individual experiencing or witnessing a physically or emotionally harmful event or series of events. Nearly 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience at least one trauma at some point in their lives. In an effort to reduce the anguish PTSD can cause, the new clinic at the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute is designed to reduce the mental and physical symptoms related to exposure to traumatic events.

The Psychiatric Research Institute’s trauma service uses an interdisciplinary approach to treating patients displaying symptoms related to PTSD, including general anxiety and worry, panic attacks, depression and relationship problems. A two-stage process is used to target the symptoms. Patients first undergo a structured mental health assessment to allow clinicians to evaluate their symptoms and their medical history. A treatment plan is then devised, focusing on evidence-based therapy best suited for each patient.

Experts say women are more likely to experience sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse while men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disasters or to witness a death or injury.

“There is no one specific method for treating PTSD,” said Erick Messias, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the Psychiatric Research Institute’s Walker Family Clinic, who oversees the trauma service. “We have to look at the patient’s background, their relationships at work and at home. We take everything into consideration before determining the best method of treating a patient’s PTSD, whether it is in a group setting or individual counseling.”

The trauma service’s team is made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses and meets twice a month to monitor the progress of its patients.

“PTSD is a serious problem in this country and in Arkansas, particularly among military personnel and veterans,” Messias said. “In many cases, the symptoms may not come to light for several months or even a year after the traumatic event. For that reason, we have to carefully examine all aspects of the patients’ life before deciding on the best manner of dealing with their problem.”

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 790 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit or