New ASU center to study veterans' wellness

February 27, 2015

Arizona State University has established a new, interdisciplinary Center for Veterans’ Wellness to conduct research and help vets affected by combat-related stress and trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Led by inaugural director Mary Davis, ASU Department of Psychology professor within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the center will draw together experts from a variety of disciplines across the university and its partner organizations to expand their work and develop new ideas. Download Full Image

The center launches at a critically important time, after more than a decade of war that has created a generation of combat veterans. The ASU center will build national visibility for research and treatment advances, bringing in scientists who have an accomplished record in veterans’ health research.

“The center is geared toward creating new knowledge that not only helps to ease difficulty and distress that many veterans face, but also builds on veterans’ strengths,” said Davis, a clinical health psychologist who studies chronic pain and emotional regulation. “In fact, it will promote what is already happening at a grassroots level among scientists around the [Phoenix area].”

Approximately 22 million veterans live in the U.S. today, more than 17 million of whom served during wartime. The stress and trauma of war can have a powerful effect on service members’ health and well-being. For example, 11 to 20 percent of veterans who served during recent wars have been diagnosed with PTSD, compared to 7 to 8 percent of the civilian population, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Here are individuals who have given so much, and they come home and they are facing enormous challenges,” said Keith Crnic, chair of the ASU Department of Psychology. “I won’t say problems – many people handle that transition just fine. But there are challenges.”

Crnic believes there are ways of easing the transition by delving methodically into the issue.

“Basic research needs to be done to understand stress and trauma – how the brain operates around them,” he said. “And we need applied research on how to intervene effectively. And then contextually – how do we help families help the veterans as they come back, and how do families also cope for themselves?”

The center is founded on four primary pillars:

• basic science research, exploring the fundamental biological, psychological and social mechanisms associated with stress and trauma
• prevention and intervention research, testing pharmacological, psychological, social and community-based treatments
• policy research, creating scholarship on how scientific evidence can impact broader policies that address veterans’ health
• education and outreach, educating service providers on the latest best practices for care

“This center is a way to expand ASU’s military-friendly mission, to include contributions to the science that supports the well-being of our veterans,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president for the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Because the Center for Veterans’ Wellness is a university-wide, interdisciplinary effort, it will be supported by the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, instead of an individual college or school. As the center emerges, Davis and Crnic foresee important contributions from the life sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, social work, nursing, health solutions, law and other disciplines.

In addition, many researchers at ASU collaborate with local health and social service organizations, such as the Phoenix VA Health Care System, Mayo Clinic, Barrow Neurological Institute and others. The new center will support and expand upon those kinds of community partnerships.

“Academics have sometimes been accused of staying in their ‘ivory tower,’” said Davis. “We want the center to be embedded in the community, in alignment with ASU’s mission.”

In her own research, Davis focuses not just on eliminating symptoms of chronic pain but also on enhancing quality of life. She would like to see the new center embrace this approach as well, focusing not just on avoiding negative outcomes but also supporting positive experiences and connections.

“ASU faculty are conducting some phenomenal research in areas of biological responses to stress, health care delivery, social and family dynamics, health care policy and more,” said Panchanathan. “We are excited to support these experts in collaborating to address such an important societal challenge.”

As the largest public university in the U.S., ASU already has a strong commitment to veteran success in education and has been named a “Military Friendly School” by G.I. Jobs magazine six years in a row. The university offers numerous support services to more than 4,400 military, veteran and dependent population students. These include the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, which provides a single point of contact for ASU veterans and their dependents; scholarships through the Tillman Military Scholars program; and VetSuccess on Campus, a joint program with the VA that provides academic, career and adjustment counseling.

Media contact:

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU partner joins LA mayor to discuss iconic film

February 27, 2015

Ever wondered what makes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti laugh?

June Cleaver speaking jive, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a pilot and a bowl of Jell-O on a turbulent plane. man being presented with movie poster on stage Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (standing, right) is presented with an "Airplane!" poster during the "My Favorite Movie" series hosted by Zócalo Public Square and KCRW, Feb. 26, at the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown L.A. Photo by: Aaron Salcido, Zócalo Public Square Download Full Image

Garcetti hosted Zócalo and KCRW’s “My Favorite Movie” series at the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown L.A., Feb. 26. He chose the 1980 classic comedy "Airplane!"

Zócalo is an affiliate of Arizona State University and is based at the ASU Center in Santa Monica, California. The Zócalo Public Square ideas project is a multiplatform, multimedia conversation that brings together thinkers, leaders, public figures and Americans from all walks of life to explore layered questions about how our nation’s past can help us understand its present and imagine its future.

In introducing the movie, the mayor said that "Airplane!" appeals to his “goofy sensibility,” the ability “to laugh at yourself, laugh at the world.” Garcetti also chose the movie because it broke new comedic ground and because “for a nine-year-old it was an exciting movie on all sorts of levels.”

After a screening of "Airplane!" KCRW "Press Play" host Madeleine Brand interviewed Garcetti, as well as the movie’s writing-directing-producing trio, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker.

Brand opened the discussion by referring to one of the movie’s most famous jokes – the fact that the stewardess can’t understand what two black passengers are saying – and asked the mayor, “Do you speak jive?”

“It doesn’t seem incomprehensible anymore,” said Garcetti. He added, “There’s so many things you probably couldn’t get away with doing now” in the movie, yet it still feels fresh, he said. Garcetti said that he loves how the humor of Abrahams and the Zuckers “always seems well-intentioned” and comes from a good place.

Garcetti said that when it came time to choose his favorite movie, there was some debate in his office; people thought he needed to choose a classic Los Angeles movie like "L.A. Confidential" or "Chinatown." But "Airplane!" is also an L.A. movie, he said. And it gets at some important issues of contemporary L.A. as well.

“LAX hasn’t been improved since the movie,” said Garcetti.

Brand asked the filmmakers if, when they made the movie, they had any idea it would become so iconic.

“We were just excited that it did well when it opened, but never ever thought it would have this long a life," said Jerry Zucker.

Jim Abrahams recalled that VHS machines were new at the time of the movie's release in 1980. They won an award for the world’s top-selling VHS – with around 25,000 copies sold.

Brand asked why the filmmakers decided to cast against type, with leading men who were not known as comedians.

“It was the only way we could do the movie,” said David Zucker. “We thought comedians would ruin it.” The idea was that it would look and feel like an old movie – but with voices that had been redubbed without the actors knowing it.

The studio, Paramount, was a bit perplexed about the intentions of its three young filmmakers. But after executives watched dailies from the first day of shooting, which featured Leslie Nielsen’s most famous line in the movie, “I am serious … and don’t call me Shirley,” they finally got in on the joke.

Brand asked how Lakers basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ended up in the movie.

“That role was originally written for Pete Rose,” said Abrahams. But the movie was shot in the summer, and Rose was playing baseball, so they rewrote the part for Abdul-Jabbar.

The movie was shot on a shoestring budget of $3 million and made $80 million domestically and $80 million internationally. This was very unusual at the time, said Jerry Zucker. But "Airplane!" traveled well because people around the world had seen the disaster movies it spoofed.

The Zuckers and Abrahams love the very movies they make fun of in "Airplane!"

“When we’re picking something to satirize, not only do we need to find something that we think is kind of laughable but also something that we have affection for,” said Jerry Zucker.

Turning to Garcetti, Brand asked him how L.A. has changed from the city presented in the movie.

“It was a wild time, clearly, in the 70s,” said Garcetti. But joking aside, "Airplane!" reminds him of a more “free-spirited” and innocent time in L.A. Since 1980, Los Angeles has gone through “some really deep things as a city,” he said, like riots and earthquakes. But before all that, “we were kind of the center of the universe, but we were also humble and anonymous.”

Garcetti said that watching the movie, and recognizing how it changed humor – creating a deadpan, fast-paced rhythm that didn’t exist before – also reminded him of the more unformed Los Angeles of his childhood.

The moviemakers gave Garcetti a signed poster, and asked him to read the inscription to the audience.

“To Eric Garcetti, or Current Mayor of Los Angeles: We’re thrilled that 'Airplane!' is your favorite film. On the other hand, we’re terrified that someone of that mindset is running the city.”

Written by Sarah Rothbard, Zócalo Public Square