Karestan Chase Koenen, PhD
Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology
Karestan Chase Koenen, PhD, researches and teaches about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
The goal of her work is three-fold. First, she studies why, when exposed to similar traumatic events, some persons develop PTSD while others are resilient. She is interested in how genes shape risk for PTSD. This work is done through her leadership of the PTSD working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Second, she investigates how trauma and PTSD influence weight gain and alter long-term physical health. Her work provides further evidence that PTSD is not solely a mental health problem, demonstrating that patients need access to integrated mental and physical health care. Third, she documents the global burden of trauma and PTSD through her work with the World Mental Health Survey Initiative. This work aims to advance the genetic analysis of serious mental illness while contributing to global mental health equity to countries that have been under-represented in neuropsychiatric genetics research.
Karestan also advocates for victims of sexual violence. In May 2011, she testified before the House Foreign Affairs Full Committee hearing “Peace Corps at 50” about the epidemic of sexual violence and the victim blaming culture of the Peace Corps.