Ben G. Adams, PhD
Member since: 2000
Occupation: Project manager in the
division of social psychiatry, department
of epidemiology at Columbia University’s
Mailman School of Public Health.
Research: Adams studies post-traumatic stress disorder with Columbia’s
Bruce Dohrenwend, PhD. Adams’s first
major study — which appeared in Science
in 2006 — made news because it found
that 18. 7 percent of Vietnam vets had
developed war-related PTSD during their
lifetimes and 9.1 percent still suffered the
condition 11 to 12 years after the war.
His latest study also promises to draw
media attention: Now in press in Clinical
Psychological Science, the study finds that
people who perpetrate atrocities also
suffer from PTSD.
A PTSD researcher, artist and video game enthusiast.
Drawn to psychology: Adams grew
up in small town St. George, Utah,
where his father was the town’s first
psychologist. “He just did everything,”
says Adams. “Ran the inpatient unit,
worked at the rehab, did outpatient.”
Adams never set out to follow his father’s
career path — he was more interested
in English, poetry and the arts. But in
college at Brigham Young University,
the eloquence of science drew him in.
He decided to pursue psychology since
it was the “science that had the most
overlap with the arts.” So, he earned a
clinical psychology degree at Columbia
in 2009 and joined its department of
epidemiology soon after.
Melding art and science: Despite
his research success, Adams always felt
enticed by the arts. “And I thought, what
if I could create something as art that
serves a purpose, art with a potential
to heal society?” Last year, he decided
to explore that concept by studying
printmaking at the Art Students
League of New York. He’s now creating
an art book that explores the idea of
approaching dieting as an art form or
a creative process. Two of his art prints
were showcased at Columbia Medical
Center in May.
What few colleagues know about
him: “I love video games quite deeply,”
he says, naming The Legend of Zelda
and Super Mario as his favorites. “I really
feel that video games helped me get my
dissertation done. They gave me the
experience of working toward a goal and
What’s next: Adams will continue his
PTSD research, but is also contemplating
his next art project, which will have a
spiritual bent. “I’m very interested in
rituals and I have this idea of creating
a ritual or spiritual sanctuary that is
influenced by minimalist art. Often
when I visit churches, the part I like the
least is the sermon or the preaching. I
think another way to reach people is
through a wordless service, with music
and moments of silence.”
View a slide show of Dr.
Ben Adams’s art.