Gift to UNMC focuses on addressing mental trauma

by Robb Crouch, University of Nebraska Foundation | September 13, 2017

Image with caption: From left: Lea Pounds, Ph.D., assistant professor, UNMC Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, College of Public Health; Jungyoon Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor, UNMC Department of Health Services Research and Administration, College of Public Health; Alisha Aggarwal, doctoral student, UNMC Department of Health Services Research and Administration, College of Public Health; 
Ali Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean, UNMC College of Public Health; Melissa Tibbits, Ph.D., associate professor, UNMC Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, College of Public Health.

From left: Lea Pounds, Ph.D., assistant professor, UNMC Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, College of Public Health; Jungyoon Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor, UNMC Department of Health Services Research and Administration, College of Public Health; Alisha Aggarwal, doctoral student, UNMC Department of Health Services Research and Administration, College of Public Health; Ali Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean, UNMC College of Public Health; Melissa Tibbits, Ph.D., associate professor, UNMC Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health, College of Public Health.

The Claire M. Hubbard Foundation of Omaha has provided a gift of more than $76,000 to support UNMC and its partners with a program that strives to help people who have experienced childhood mental trauma.

Becoming safer, supportive community

Principal investigator Jungyoon Kim, Ph.D., said the program takes a tiered-approach that is intended to build awareness, develop skills and change behaviors and attitudes to create a more comprehensive response to trauma.

"A foundation of awareness and knowledge leads to opportunities for thoughtfully developing skills and procedures that are trauma sensitive," Dr. Kim said. "This provides community leaders and members of all occupations skills for responding to those affected by trauma in a way that best helps them succeed.

"Omaha is stepping up to become a safe and supportive community -- a community that is committed to health and well-being by intentionally addressing trauma. Yet, these efforts are only as strong as the momentum behind them."

The donation establishes an expendable fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation to support the Building a Trauma-Informed Community in Nebraska initiative at UNMC. The university will use the fund to support faculty and student research efforts related to the project within the College of Public Health.

The Building a Trauma-Informed Community program started last year with the goal to eventually train 22,000 professionals in the greater Omaha area on identifying the effects of childhood mental trauma.

Pointing to the need for mental trauma training, Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the UNMC College of Public Health, said approximately 50 percent of adults in Nebraska report having experienced some type of adverse childhood events, which are referred to as ACEs.

"These adverse events have been linked to social, emotional and cognitive impairment with physiologic changes that lead to disease, disability and other problems," Dr. Khan said. "So we are especially grateful to the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation for support of this effort to create a trauma-informed community and to both prevent trauma events from happening and any re-traumatization. The foundation's support will be especially integral in the attempt to protect children by improving educational efforts to identify at-risk children."

To achieve the program's objectives, UNMC has partnered with Project Harmony, a non-profit organization assisting in both developing and delivering evidence-based training throughout the greater Omaha area. Part of the process includes collecting data on the current trauma training and practices being used in the community, and a UNMC research team is working to gather and examine this data.

"The very first step in moving to a trauma-informed community is to know where we are right now," said Jungyoon Kim, Ph.D., principal investigator and assistant professor at the UNMC College of Public Health. "Throughout this project, we provide tools for community agencies to assess their current training practices and organizational policies to support trauma-informed care."

The training and information will benefit practitioners in the fields of education, medicine, justice, child welfare and emergency medical response and will enable them to better recognize mental trauma in others and to respond appropriately to get them the help they need.

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Sydney Buckland, PhDc, CON
September 13, 2017 at 9:23 AM

Many thanks to the Hubbards for funding such a worthwhile cause.