Paul D. Dukarm, PhD
He had planned to stop at a master’s
in psychology, but while at Texas
A&M at Corpus Christi, an advanced
physiological psychology course sparked
his interest and changed his career plans.
He earned a PhD in clinical psychology
in 2006 from the University of
Montana, then did a postdoc in clinical
neuropsychology at the San Francisco
VA Medical Center.
VA neuropsychologist, University of Alaska–Anchorage professor and cold-water surfer.
Member since: 2009
he implemented a neurobehavioral
rehabilitation program to complement
the assessment services. “It’s a great
challenge and adventure to be an early
career neuropsychologist who gets to
stand up a program and start from
scratch,” says Dukarm, who is also the
neuropsychology rotation supervisor
for the Alaska VA Psychology Internship
Program and who teaches biopsychology
and tests and measurement at the
University of Alaska–Anchorage.
A military culture: Alaska has the
highest number of veterans per capita of
any state, says Dukarm, and there’s also
a “fairly dense active duty” population
along with a heavy Coast Guard
presence. Although Dukarm has never
served in the military himself, working at
the VA seems natural: His brother, father,
uncles and grandfathers were all military
men. Dukarm got his first professional
exposure to the VA during his internship
at the VA Black Hills Health Care System
in South Dakota.
What he does: Dukarm is the only
neuropsychologist at the Alaska Veterans
Affairs Healthcare System, whose main
clinic is located in Anchorage. He was
hired in 2008 to set up a program that
evaluates veterans with polytrauma —
two or more physical or psychological
injuries resulting from a single event.
Because of the state’s vastness, Dukarm
assesses patients both in person and via
videoconferencing. “In terms of patient
care, videoconferencing works very
well and saves them a lot of hassle,” says
Dukarm. He also provides more general
neuropsychological services for patients
with dementia, traumatic brain injuries
and other problems. More recently,
What drove him to psychology: In
high school, Dukarm took a vocational
interests test that gave him two choices:
psychologist or bus driver. “No offense
to bus drivers, but for me I think I
made the right choice!” laughs Dukarm.
Surfing past glaciers: Dukarm tries
to take advantage of everything Alaska
has to offer, including cold-water surfing.
“Yes, there’s a small but significant
surfing culture,” says Dukarm, a native
Texan. “It’s a really spectacular place to
be in the water.” He also hikes, fishes and
just enjoys the uniqueness of his adopted
home, such as finding a moose in his
driveway or a black bear running around
the parking lot at work. “Work shuts
down and everyone watches while the
police try to corral it,” he says.
—REBECCA A. CLAY
Each month, “Random Sample” profiles
an APA member. You may be next.
MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • JULY/AUGUST 2012