One woman who is going beyond duty to help our men and women in uniform.
Drorit (Dee) Gaines, PhD is an exceptional young woman, inter alia, she helps our veterans and she is going places.
She holds the first universal weekly live radio show on the subject of neuropsychology and Wellbeing, The Dr. Dee Show and the concept is to teach the layman public about unhealthy interpersonal dynamics such as domestic violence. Most interesting is that the show is her tzedakah, her righteousness of charity, her Tikun Olam, to help change the world for the better, especially the world of the men and women who sacrifice their lives so every American can feel safer.
Now 35 years old, Drorit started her career as an accountant at Deloitte & Touche and her career was bright. “But it is not all about money and success,” she notes. So she took a different path and became a certified hypnotherapist; from there she gained her doctorate in clinical psychology and neuropsychology.
Drorit’s background is even more interesting. She is of Italian and Yemenite parents, is a descendant of Rabbi Shalom ben Yosef Shabazi who grew up in a religious Jewish home in Petach Tikvah, Israel. She had experienced a first marriage and a divorce and in Los Angeles she met her soul mate, now her husband and the father of her three children, who is a Chinese medicine practitioner and a rabbi. They both hold similar orientation values to help others.
She is not spoiled and believes to have a direct relations with G-d; claims to be organized but eclectic, most disciplined but creative, and most important she is goal oriented. “If something is not working I go knock on the next door,” she explains her path of past, present and future. “With anything you do in life, think out of the box. I do not allow preconceived notions take over because, then my innovation spirit dies. In relationships that you form in life, even with your children, you need to experiment, be creative and not be afraid. You have to believe in yourself,” and she does. “If you have Ha’Shem-G-D with you, if you listen, if you keep humble and you keep yourself in check, you will prevail,” she adds.
Drorit thrives to give a soldier a home! “Most people have the tendency to go to the extreme and my job is to lead them towards normalcy,“ she explains. “In addition, military veterans returning from combat have to deal with psychological complications, the ramification of combat. As a Health Science Specialist and Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, leading research in brain functioning after combat brain injury at the Veterans Affairs of Greater Los Angeles I am able to help them.”
We spoke about traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from which many veterans suffer.
“What has led you to be interested in working with veterans?” I asked.
My passion to serve the veterans and improve their quality of life has deep roots. Both my father and my brother are combat veterans of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). My father, served as a lieutenant in three wars and only recently, after forty years of military service he has been recognized to have been suffering from PTSD. As a graduate student, specializing in neuropsychology, I was very interested in what happens to the brain, both the result of traumatic brain injury and PTSD. I have designed my doctoral dissertation based on the current need to understand neuropsychological deficits caused by traumatic brain injury in combat and have had the opportunity to study this issue at the Veterans Affairs. In the last three years I have been manning a research position, as a lead neuropsychologist, focusing on blast-related traumatic brain injury and combat post-traumatic stress disorder.
“What is a traumatic brain injury (TBI)?” I asked.
“Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), sometimes referred to as concussion, is a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. About 1.4 million Americans survive traumatic brain injuries each year and a stroke and brain injury is the second most prevalent injury causing disability in the United States. TBI, caused by a blast, is the leading injury among military personnel who have served in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and persistent long term cognitive impairment can occur even after mild-TBI, which directly impacts the health and safety of service members. Accurate diagnosis, assessment, and prognosis of structural and/or functional brain injury are extremely important and urgently required. The common cognitive deficits after TBI consist of selective and divided attention, perseveration, working memory and prospective memory, establishing goals, planning, executing plans, inhibiting responses, initiating, and sequencing. Other difficulties include conceptual reasoning, decision-making, self-monitoring, and emotional regulation. Executive deficits are among the most common cognitive impairments following a traumatic brain injury and often result in functional, occupational, and social disabilities.”
“Please describe what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is?” I went into the next case from which veterans suffer.
“PTSD is a condition that refers to a combination of stress-related reactions, experienced by the person after going through a traumatic event. These reactions do not go away over time and eventually disrupt the person’s life. PTSD, can occur after someone goes through, sees, or learns about a traumatic event such as combat exposure, child sexual or physical abuse, terror attack, sexual and/or physical assault, serious accident, or a natural disaster. The key factor is that the person was exposed to a real or perceived threat to their lives or their physical safety, or have witnessed such a scenario happen to another person. Different people respond differently to threatening situations and have various levels of resilience in terms of their emotional and cognitive resources to overcome trauma. Statistics show that many Americans have had a trauma. About 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one traumatic event. Of those who do, about 8% of men and 20% of women will develop PTSD. For some events, such as combat and sexual assault, more people develop PTSD.”
“Whom can veterans and their families reach out to if they need help? What are the available resources for them?” I asked.
“We have many programs that offer Veterans the help they need. If a Veteran has any questions about TBI or PTSD, they can visit the VA’s National Center for PTSD firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also contact the Local PTSD Clinic at the West LA VA Medical Center to find out more information. Each VA Medical Facility has a Veteran Service Organization office that can help Veterans find more information. For immediate help of course call 911, go to the nearest Emergency Room, Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 1-800-273-8255, or the Veterans Crisis Line @ 1-800-273-8255.
Then I was curious and asked the bubbly young neuropsychologist: “What are your future interests in research?”
“My current and future interests in research include two primary populations, which are survivors of traumatic brain injury and patients diagnosed with dementia and neurodegenerative disorders. I am also exploring the possibilities of studying the effects of multi-factorial sensory-motor stimulation in the rehabilitation process of cognitive deficits. One of my career interests is psychoeducation to the public – increasing awareness and knowledge of the public in the area of neuropsychology and wellbeing.
Of course, in many aspects Drorit lumps into one group Israeli and American veterans who have been actively fighting wars for years. “A nation, whether it is the American, Israeli or any other nation sending its fathers, sons, husbands to combat, whereby their service holds the protective key to a safe, secure and free future of every citizen, regardless of political or religious orientation, must cherish, dignify and honor them and their families daily. It is our essential way and basic obligation that we recognize their immense physical and psychological sacrifices they have made on behalf of every citizen.” And Dr. Drorit (Dee) Gaines does just that, helps and cherishes the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.