A Foster School of Medicine student’s project to study and learn more about PTSD symptoms in El Paso patients received a major boost from a nationally recognized organization.
Shannon Tung, a second-year medical student, was awarded a $5,000 grant from the American Psychiatric Association to help local patients become more aware of their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and resources available to them.
The Helping Hands Grant funds projects involving mental health and substance use disorders in underserved minority communities. Tung’s project will study El Pasoans at outpatient clinics with trauma-related symptoms and explore how they seek help.
“Because our project aims to look for these symptoms in primary care patients, we hope it will give us a broader understanding of how these symptoms affect everyday people,” Tung said. “My goal is that by helping educate and raise awareness of this issue within the El Paso community, it will become a topic of discussion for years to come.”
El Paso and the surrounding area is considered underserved when it comes to health care professionals and services, including psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.
Physician shortages in rural West Texas contribute to a larger, nationwide deficit. Towns in surrounding Hudspeth and Culberson counties, as well as unincorporated communities outside of El Paso, lack sufficient access to health care. The Foster School of Medicine trains students in culturally competent care with the goal of keeping these future physicians in West Texas to treat patients in both metropolitan and rural areas.
“This grant will help us share results from the research we’re conducting and allow the El Paso community to be more aware of mental health issues, specifically trauma-related symptoms and PTSD,” Tung said. “As a medical student, it’s important for me to be actively involved with and serve the community around me. With this grant, we’ll hopefully have a positive impact on the El Paso community and create a space for mental health education and discussions.”
Faculty advisor Moataz Ragheb, M.D., Ph.D., is supervising the project. Dr. Ragheb is an associate professor in the Foster School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, as well as the program director for the Psychiatry Residency program. He said Foster School of Medicine students like Tung compete with medical students across the country to win awards like the Helping Hands grant. This is the third grant awarded this year to a student with a psychiatry faculty member supervising.
“I hope Ms. Shannon Tung succeeds in completing her project, and that it has an impact on the El Paso community that may carry on afterward by improving the health and well-being of all El Pasoans,” Dr. Ragheb said. “I also hope this will be an important achievement in her successful career.”