Karestan Chase Koenen, PhD does research and teaches about trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The broad goal of her work is three-fold. First, she studies why, when exposed so a similar traumatic event, some persons develop PTSD while others are resilient. She is particularly interested in how genes shape risk for PTSD. Much of this work is done through the PTSD working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium that she co-leads with Kerry Ressler and Israel Liberzon. Second, she investigates how trauma and PTSD influence weight gain and alter long-term physical health. Third, she documents global burden of trauma and PTSD through her work with the World Mental Health Surveys. Dr. Koenen also advocates for victims of sexual violence. In May 2011, Dr. Koenen testified before the House Foreign Affairs Full Committee about the epidemic of sexual violence and victim blaming culture of the Peace Corps. She has written for the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege Project, a journalism project founded by Gloria Steinem that investigates how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in conflict. Dr. Koenen is currently consulting with award-winning documentary filmmaker Lisa Jackson on the film ‘It Happened Here, which investigates the epidemic of sexual assault on university campuses. Dr. Koenen currently lives in NY City. When not working, she is likely taking a yoga class at New York Loves Yoga or spending time with her son, Lorcan.
Faculty Fellow, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
Affiliate Faculty, Columbia Health and Society Scholars Program
Honors & Awards
Chaim Danieli Young Professional Award for Excellence in Service/Research in Traumatic Stress, ISTSS, 2005
Robins-Guze Young Investigator Award, APPA, 2005
Outstanding Post-doctoral Research Mentor Award, HSPH, 2010
Woman of the Week, Women in the World Foundation, November 23, 2011
Select Global Activities
Cross-National Epidemiology of Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: This project aims to document the cross-national epidemiology of trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder among countries that are part of the World Mental Health Survey Initiative.
Women Under Siege Project, Syria: This project aims to end sexualized violence in conflict and war.