International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

The Frank W. Putnam Trauma Research Scholars Program

Posted 29 July 2013 in StressPoints by ISTSS

The ISTSS Board of Directors is pleased to announce the establishment of the Frank W. Putnam Trauma Research Scholars Program. The scholars are named in honor of Dr. Frank W. Putnam, whose is being recognized for his outstanding contributions to the field of traumatic stress research, service to children and families around the world and decades of mentorship and service to ISTSS.

The Frank W. Putnam Trauma Research Scholars will be chosen each year from student members whose submitted proposals are judged to have the potential for making the greatest contribution to the field of traumatic stress. Each student will be awarded $1,000. Previously known as the Student Research Grant Program, the Frank W. Putnam Research Scholars Program was endowed by anonymous donors identified as the friends and colleagues of Dr. Putnam.

In response to the establishment of the program, Dr. Putnam wrote:  

“I am especially pleased that the award is for predoctoral students. The ISTSS is the perfect organization to host the award. I wish all of the future recipients all the best in their careers.”

Dr. Putnam is currently a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. Following his training in adult psychiatry at Yale University, he joined the National Institute of Mental Health Intramural Research Program (NIMH) in Bethesda, MD, studying biological rhythms and neuroendocrine systems in rapid cycling bipolar patients. There he encountered a large number of psychiatric patients who reported histories of child maltreatment. Dr. Putnam began working with patients who suffered from trauma-related disorders, pioneering studies of brain electrical activity mapping and other techniques in this area. Working with adult victims of child abuse, Dr. Putnam became convinced that research with abused children was critical to understanding and reversing the negative psychological and biological effects of maltreatment. His early articles on dissociation and his book, Dissociation in Children and Adolescents, were pioneering work. His empirical approach to studying dissociation and dissociative disorders was a major influence that helped transform an area of clinical interest focused on case studies and clinical opinions into an evidence-based field. He was also co-author of the Dissociative Experiences Scale, which has been used in over 3000 studies of trauma and dissociation. 

In 1986, Dr. Putnam started a longitudinal research study of sexually abused girls with Dr. Penelope Trickett, a developmental psychologist at the University of Southern California. This study continues under the direction of Dr. Jennie Noll, and has produced a great deal of new information about the long-term effects of maltreatment on child development.

Convinced many of the lessons learned in this research can be applied to treatment of child abuse, Dr. Putnam left the NIMH to head the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and to be director of the Trauma Treatment Replication Center, specializing in the transfer of evidence-based practices to community mental health providers. The mission of the Center for Safe and Healthy Children is to develop a national child abuse prevention, evaluation and treatment center that develops and disseminates evidence-based interventions for the many negative effects of child abuse and neglect. Dr. Putnam has since moved the University of North Carolina where he continues to work to identify and address the adverse impact of abuse on mental and physical health over the life course.

In addition to being an internationally renowned researcher, Dr. Putnam is widely recognized as an outstanding mentor. His mentees include many prominent members of the traumatic stress field, including Drs. Eve Carlson (past-president of ISTSS), Michael De Bellis, Jennie Noll, and Michael Scheeringa. Dr. Putnam also served on the Board of Directors of ISTSS and was vice president for Dr. Sandra Bloom in 1998.

Dr. Putnam’s life and work have touched many generations of traumatic stress researchers and clinicians, as well as families who have been impacted by traumatic stress. The Board of Directors of ISTSS is delighted to have the opportunity to recognize Dr. Putnam’s many contributions.