Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D., has always been interested in the interplay of genes and environment, such as traumatic events, for producing psychiatric conditions. A clinical psychologist, Amstadter joined the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at VCU to continue her studies of mental health issues — including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse — in soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I want to do nuanced assessments of different types of traumatic events, look at risk and resiliency and personal history of trauma, and relate that to mental health outcomes,” she said. A current project is investigating how acute stress affects drinking behavior in soldiers with different degrees of combat experience and mental health issues.
Amstadter earned her Ph.D. at Auburn University and did a clinical internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. She stayed on in Charleston as faculty until she came to the MCV Campus.
Amstadter says the draw was the institute, directed by Ken Kendler, M.D. She lauds its richness of faculty and multidisciplinary environment. “The field is so complex. Our institute has on faculty psychologists, psychiatrists, statisticians, geneticists and molecular biologists. It’s a rare place.”