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About Laura As a paramedic working for many years in the Chicago metropolitan area, I witnessed firsthand the devastating and lasting effects of trauma not only on victims, but also on their families and medical support personnel. When I began my career, psychologists were struggling to understand and treat returning Viet Nam veterans. The symptoms and behaviors these veterans displayed were all too often relegated to the nebulous and highly-stigmatized category of combat fatigue, and physicians were at a loss to treat these individuals effectively except for prescribing tricyclic antidepressants plus various other sedatives and tranquilizers. My coworkers and I marshaled on the best we could, but without any guidance in how to care for the ever escalating numbers of individuals affected by social unrest, violence, and other traumatic experiences. Effective infrastructures designed to meet our own needs as caregivers were nonexistent, and after watching many other nurses, physicians, and paramedics succumb to the effects of what we now know to be vicarious trauma, I left the medical arts in favor of becoming a geochemist. I chose geochemistry because this venue would provide both theoretical and applied training. I cherished the academic and laboratory environments, and they gave me a much needed break from the impotence I felt in attempting to care for individuals in crisis. Ironically, it was the circumstances surrounding 9-11, plus continuing geopolitical unrest and the threat of terrorism, that inspired me to return to school and work towards a PhD in psychology. In many ways I have come full circle, for my original intention as a paramedic was the alleviation of human suffering.
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