University Relations and Marketing

Contacts:
Darla Tyler-McSherry, Student Health Services, 657-2564
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269

July 7, 2008

Conference at MSU Billings focuses on challenges faced by post-combat veterans returning to college

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The college setting is full of challenges for all those are enmeshed in the higher-education process. Students try to figure out faculty. The faculty try to figure out students.

But what if some of those students — a veteran returning from Iraq with post traumatic stress disorder, for example — have underlying issues that aren’t readily apparent?

Discussion of that challenge and some suggested tools on dealing with it will be the focus of a daylong conference at Montana State University Billings in November. The conference brings together renowned experts from Billings, Montana and the United States in a dialogue that not only affect veterans, but all students sharing similar symptoms.

“The Veteran Student in Higher Education: The Legacy and Challenges of a New Generation” will be held Tuesday, Nov. 18 at the MSU Billings College of Technology Health Sciences Building, 3803 Central Ave. It runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free of charge to veterans and their families as well as currently enrolled college students. The fee for mental health professionals, health care experts, student services professionals, university system professionals, educators and all others is $25.

The conference is being coordinated by the MSU Billings Student Health Services and Veterans Upward Bound.

Luke Petriccione, director of Veterans Upward Bound at MSU Billings, said the conference will provide new and updated information for higher education professionals and others interested in strategies to help veterans. The goal, he said, is to provide a foundation for better understanding of the needs of veterans who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

The conference topics cover not only veterans, but are also relevant to students who are coming to college these days with higher levels of stress, said Darla Tyler-McSherry, a health educator with the MSU Billings Student Health Services.

“We want people to be as prepared as possible,” she said. “We want faculty and others to better understand how these issues affect people in the classroom.”

Some of the topics that will be covered include making successful adjustment after undergoing stressful situations; diagnosis, symptoms and treatment of traumatic brain injury; creating a positive response to post traumatic stress disorder; what veterans and families need to know about PTSD; and a panel discussion from student veterans.

Guest speakers include:

  • Sister Kateri Maureen Koverman: As executive director of Them Bones Veteran Community in Cincinnati Ohio, Sister Kateri has worked in war zones in Vietnam, Ethiopia and El Salvador. Her expertise in addressing related PTSD after 16 years of work with veterans has been utilized in other countries of conflict and throughout the United States and Canada.
  • Dr. Mark Deitz: Dietz is a board-certified neurologist and Chief of Neurology/Rehabilitation Services at Fort Harrison VAMC in Helena. His training includes medical school at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine; Neurology residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago; and fellowship in Neurorehabilitation at Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, N.Y. with focus on patients with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis and stroke. Dietz has had a private neurology practice in both Boulder, Colo., and Helena before joining the VA hospital in 2001. At the VA he is an active member of the OIF/OEF Polytrauma Team involved in treating traumatic brain injury in veterans, including those returning from the Iraq War.
  • Marybeth O’Sullivan: A registered nurse by profession and a commander in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, Sullivan is the outreach advisor for Veterans Upward Bound at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. As the outreach advisor, O’Sullivan met with many military personnel prior to their deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, and once again as they returned to the civilian sector. It was during this time that she observed specific behaviors and difficulties within the combat veteran population, particularly as they returned to the classroom. She combined her clinical skills and knowledge base of PTSD and traumatic brain injury to show how these unseen wounds of war affects adult learning. She has spoken nationally on this subject, to educators, healthcare professionals and the general public.
  • Ross Szabo: As a national presenter, Sczabo notes that 1 in 10 college students face depression, and that suicide is the second leading cause of death in college students. Depression is also tied into 66 percent of young people with substance abuse problems often leading to increased loneliness, isolation and suicide. Szabo’s focus on campus mental health and societal stereotypes provides a backdrop for addressing this issue on campus as a whole, but particularly among our young veterans returning to campus. He will present “What Happy Faces Are Hiding: Talking About Depression” as the keynote address at 4 p.m.

For more information or to register for the conference, contact Darla Tyler-McSherry at the MSU Billings Student Health Services at 657-2564.

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