Professor Daniel Kivlahan joined the GMRF team in late 2017 as an Academic Advisor to provide guidance in research investigating the reintegration process from military service to civilian life and more broadly on the various veteran mental health initiatives being conducted by the GMRF team. Based in Washington, Seattle, Prof Kivlahan visited GMRF last month to meet the team and some of our collaborators, and provide consultation on our Veteran Mental Health Studies.
We caught up with Prof Kivlahan recently to get his thoughts on GMRF’s research, what we can learn from veteran research in the United States, and impressions from his first trip to Australia!
What stands out the most for you in your work with the GMRF team?
I admire the obvious dedication of GMRF staff and investigators to research that has the opportunity to improve health and quality of life among those who have served. There is also acute awareness of the importance of promoting transitions from active duty that best allow former service members to make successful use in civilian life of their valuable skills and individual interests.
What are some of the strengths of GMRF’s work?
I am extremely impressed with the productive collaborative relationships GMRF investigators have developed with RSL Queensland and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These partnerships are essential in assuring that GMRF efforts are informed by and most likely to benefit ADF veterans and their families.
From your experience, what can Australia learn from the research and policy of veterans’ affairs in the United States?
A strength within the US Veterans’ Affairs (VA) health care system is the availability of national data on Veterans diagnoses, treatments, prescriptions, etc. to identify their health care needs and trends over time. GMRF investigators are well-positioned to pursue independent analyses of such existing data on behalf of veterans from the Australian Defence Force (ADF). In addition, based on their established partnerships, GMRF can pursue effective ways to obtain information directly from veterans about their experience of care and clinically meaningful changes in symptoms and functioning in order to better understand what is most effective from the veterans’ perspective.
What do you believe is the next step in research to enhance veteran health?
Recent studies in the US have documented substantial unmet need for mental health services among veterans who have served in conflicts over the past 15 year (http://nap.edu/24915) with implications for addressing various barriers to receiving mental health care including perceived stigma and lack of awareness of available services. By involving ADF veterans in clinically relevant research, GMRF studies can clarify whether and how some of these lessons learned in the US can be applied in assisting the transition of Australian veterans.
We heard this was your first trip to Australia! What did you get up to you on your limited time off while you were here?
There were a number of highlights – we went to Straddie [Stradbroke Island] for a day, Mt. Coot-tha and both amazing botanic gardens, the river cruise to Lone Pine Sanctuary, the Gallery of Modern Art, and enjoyed so much good food and wine. Most of this was accessible on foot or by the excellent public transportation system, further indications of an impressive world class community!