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Nursing professor develops intervention for effects of military sexual trauma

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Ursula Kelly, PhD, assistant professor at Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use yoga as an intervention for women who have experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military.

National data indicate that more than 20 percent of female veterans experienced sexual trauma while on active duty. This type of trauma can lead to mental health issues, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), harmful health behaviors, and even suicide.

Kelly and her team will evaluate the effectiveness of yoga as an intervention to treat PTSD and related symptoms of chronic pain and insomnia, and the biological and psychophysiological responses associated with PTSD, specifically in female veterans.

"Our overall goal is to maximize the health, quality of life, and social functioning for women veterans who experienced sexual assault while serving in the military," says Kelly. "The rate of sexual violence and PTSD among veterans is alarming. Developing and evaluating interventions such as ours is necessary in order to provide the most effective treatments possible to improve the health and well-being of our veterans."

Emory's School of Nursing and the Atlanta VA Medical Center have collaborated on education, clinical practice initiatives, and research for nearly 70 years.

"We are delighted to continue our partnership with the Atlanta VA Medical Center with this new grant, which will allow us to better serve the needs of American veterans and improve their quality of life far into the future," says Linda McCauley, RN, PhD, dean of Emory's School of Nursing.

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