2018 San Antonio Combat PTSD Conference Draws Record Attendance, Delivers a Powerful Program

Posted November 14, 2018

San Antonio’s historic Pearl Stable was filled to capacity Oct. 23-24, 2018, as approximately 500 people from across the country gathered for the Third Annual San Antonio Combat PTSD Conference.

Hosted by the STRONG STAR Consortium, Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP), and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, (also known as UT Health San Antonio), the event drew researchers and clinicians from across the country, including many with the military and the VA, as well as students, community members, and others who wanted to hear about the latest advances in treating combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder and co-occurring conditions. While many of the attendees were from the San Antonio area, about 60 percent traveled from other parts of Texas and across the country.

“We’re thrilled with the success of this year’s conference, which was our largest yet, and which was met with such enthusiasm from conference attendees,” said Alan Peterson, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UT Health San Antonio and director of STRONG STAR and CAP. “This is the only meeting of its kind, specifically focused on PTSD and other behavioral health needs of our military service members and veterans. With an impressive line-up of speakers and topics and growing nationwide attendance, it is quickly becoming the go-to meeting we’ve envisioned for those following the state-of-the-science in this critical area of research.”

Featured conference topics and speakers included something for everyone in attendance. Keynote speaker Jon Kerstetter, MD, a retired Army colonel, drew a standing ovation after sharing his inspiring story of resiliency. A Native American who grew up on a reservation, he went on to earn his medical degree from the Mayo Medical School and then joined the military, where he served three tours of duty in Iraq after 9/11 as a combat physician and flight surgeon. He later suffered a stroke that ended his military and medical career, with recovery complicated by PTSD. Ten years later, after much therapy that included writing about his trauma, Dr. Kerstetter is an award-winning author, with works including his newly released and highly acclaimed book Crossings: A Doctor Soldier’s Story.

Serving as keynote speaker the second day of the conference was Paula Schnurr, PhD, executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD. Dr. Schnurr reviewed the evidence on psychotherapy for PTSD using the VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline. She also described key areas in which the science is emerging, such as medication-assisted psychotherapy, and offered guidance about unique considerations in interpreting the scientific literature on psychotherapy.

Other featured talks included presentations by Drs. Edna Foa and Patricia Resick, developers of the two leading psychotherapy treatments for PTSD, looking at the “past, present, and future” with Prolonged Exposure and Cognitive Processing Therapy. Other speakers presented findings related to innovative and intensive forms of PTSD treatment that show great promise in treating PTSD more efficiently, with increased retention rates, while maintaining efficacy; the impact of PTSD and its treatment on the brain, with implications for diagnosis and clinical care; treatment of common PTSD comorbidities such as nightmares and chronic pain; and a host of other compelling topics.

A scientific poster session gave attendees an opportunity to learn about additional research, with this year’s session adding awards for best student posters.

The conference closed with questions from the audience for a panel of national PTSD experts, and closing remarks from Terence Keane, PhD, of the National Center for PTSD, VA Boston Healthcare System, on the future of combat-related PTSD.

“We’re grateful to have had such a tremendous line-up of presenters, who included many of our own investigators from STRONG STAR and CAP but also a record-number of individuals from outside our network,” said Katy Dondanville, PsyD, associate professor of psychiatry at UT Health San Antonio, who led the Conference Program Committee. “Some, such as our keynotes, were invited, and others submitted through a competitive review process. Our Program Committee worked to bring in the leading national experts and deliver a program that would both inform and inspire those working to heal psychologically wounded war fighters. Based on the positive feedback we’ve received, we believe we were able to do that.”

SA Combat PTSD Conference-1_Resick Addresses Crowd.jpg
Resick Addresses Crowd - Patricia Resick, PhD, speaks to attendees of the 2018 San Antonio Combat PTSD Conference about the past, present and future of Cognitive Processing Therapy for combat-PTSD. Growing in popularity, the conference nearly doubled in size from last year and filled its venue to capacity.

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Panel of Experts - Conference attendees ask questions of a panel of PTSD experts including (L-R) Denise Sloan, PhD; Steffany Fredman, PhD; Paula Schnurr, PhD; Edna Foa, PhD; Jennifer Schuster Wachen, PhD; Alan Peterson, PhD; and facilitator Katy Dondanville, PsyD.

Dr. Dondanville encouraged people to mark their calendars for next year’s conference, which will be held on the same dates, just different days of the week: Oct. 23-24, 2019. More information will be posted as it becomes available on the conference website:

In the meantime, a video of each day’s opening remarks and keynote address is available online. STRONG STAR and CAP broadcast those presentations via live streaming video on Facebook and Twitter and now has them posted for viewing after the event.

The first day’s broadcast, featuring an address by STRONG STAR and CAP director Dr. Alan Peterson and the keynote by Dr. Kerstetter is now posted at

The second day’s broadcast, featuring Dr. Peterson’s opening remarks and the keynote by Dr. Schnurr is now posted at

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Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022