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VISN 22 Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health – CESAMH

VISN 22 Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health

On December 8, 2005, citing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ continued commitment to providing Veterans with world-class care, Secretary James Nicholson announced that VISN 22 would be the home of a special Center of Excellence devoted to advancing research and enhancing care for mental health issues that affect some American Veterans.

Housed in the VA San Diego Healthcare System, the Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health (CESAMH) was created in response to the increasing prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other stress-related mental health problems. This center consists of a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, educators and researchers whose goal is to understand, prevent, and heal the effects of stress.

“Our mission,” says CESAMH Director Dr. James Lohr, “is to understand stress-induced brain mechanisms and trauma-related behavioral problems and, through this understanding, to develop novel effective treatments."

In addition, CESAMH's vision is to be VA leaders in integrating cutting edge neurobiological and technological advances into mental health research and practice to support more effective diagnostic and treatment strategies for Veteran care.

This comprehensive perspective is important because stress, and an individual’s response to it, involve complex interactions among many systems — biological, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental.

“A person’s unique vulnerabilities to stress begin with the inborn and inherited effects of genes and their expression, and accumulate with the experiences of family, job, and with changes in physical and mental health throughout the lifespan” Lohr explains. Dr. Lohr goes on to say that, “in the case of military and Veteran personnel, the added effects of stress related to service to our Country are important factors as well.”

As a national resource for cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art treatment of stress- and trauma-related problems, CESAMH focuses on multiple aspects of stress and its adverse effects including, but not limited to:

  • The effects of stress in the Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) contingents and Veterans
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • The mental health concomitants of traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • The interaction of physical and mental health consequences of stress exposure

CESAMH currently has 45 associated research, administrative and clinic staff members and collaborations with many community, state, and federal agencies, including:

  • the University of California, San Diego;
  • the Department of Defense;
  • the Center for Deployment Psychology;
  • Naval Health Research Center, and
  • other VA Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (MIRECCs),
  • as well at other Centers of Excellence.

The overarching structure of the CESAMH includes the three domains of research, education, and clinical care, with each domain stretching across and integrating different functional units.


CESAMH VA San Diego Healthcare System
3350 La Jolla Village Drive
San Diego, CA 92161
(858) 642-3762