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Pietrzak, Lowe receive APA honors

July 26, 2022
by Fran Fried

Robert Pietrzak and Sarah Lowe are being honored by Division 56 of the American Psychological Association at the APA convention in Minneapolis Aug. 4.

Two Yale School of Public Health professors are being honored with awards by the American Psychological Association (APA) for their work in trauma psychology.

Robert Pietrzak, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and professor of public health (Social and Behavioral Sciences) at YSPH, is the recipient of the 2022 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Science of Trauma Psychology, presented by the APA’s Division 56, the Division of Trauma Psychology.

Sarah Lowe, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of public health (SBS) at YSPH, who is affiliated with the Yale Institute of Global Health and who also has secondary appointments in YSM’s Department of Psychiatry and the Yale School of Nursing, is being presented with Division 56’s 2022 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Trauma Psychology by an Early Career Psychologist.

Pietrzak is also the director of the Translational Psychiatric Epidemiology Laboratory of the Clinical Neurosciences Division of the US Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. He was nominated for the award by Jack Tsai, a longtime YSM colleague and adjunct professor of psychiatry at Yale, who currently is the campus dean and a professor of public health at UTHealth in San Antonio.

Pietrzak’s award recognizes distinguished contributions to scientific research, and is given in recognition of a particular discovery or for a sustained body of research and scholarship.

“It is my understanding that the award recognizes the sustained body of research and scholarship that my colleagues and I have contributed to the field of trauma psychology,” he said. “To date, this totals more than 300 articles on topics ranging from the psychosocial and genetic epidemiology of trauma-related disorders to factors associated with resilience and posttraumatic psychological growth. This work has focused on a broad range of people affected by trauma, including military veterans, World Trade Center disaster responders, and COVID-19 frontline health care workers.”

Pietrzak said his initial reaction to learning of the award was “surprise and gratitude.” He added, “APA Division 56 is one of the most highly respected trauma psychology organizations in the world, so it is an absolute honor to be recognized by this award.”

APA Division 56 is one of the most highly respected trauma psychology organizations in the world, so it is an absolute honor to be recognized by this award.

Robert Pietrzak

He said that he dedicates his award to the memory of his mentor, colleague, and friend Dr. Steven M. Southwick, Glenn H. Greenberg Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Yale, who passed away April 20. “Steve inspired me to pursue a career in trauma and resilience research, and has been instrumental in shaping my career over the past 15 years.”

Lowe’s award recognizes psychologists in the early stages of their careers who have shown outstanding achievement or who have made outstanding contributions to the study of psychological trauma; nominees must have earned their degree no more than 10 years before the year in which they’re nominated.

She was nominated by two mentors from her postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatric epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health: Sandro Galea, who is now the dean of the Boston University School of Public Health; and Karestan Koenen, now a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She calls both of them “outstanding scientists, role models for how to do social engaged and impactful work, and genuinely kind and caring people. It meant so much that they nominated me.”

Lowe considers her award as a validation for the work she’s done.

“I felt so honored, grateful, and delighted to find out that I received this award,” she said. “Researching trauma and mental health can be emotionally draining, especially over the past few years with the pandemic, gun violence, weather-related disasters, and so on. Receiving this award made me feel like the work that I have been doing in collaboration with colleagues and students has made an impact. I am so appreciative that the Division 56 awards committee selected me as the recipient.”

Their awards will be presented Aug. 4 at the Division 56 social hour during the APA’s annual convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis.

Submitted by Mark Albis on July 26, 2022