For Rachel Annunziato, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, a Fordham faculty research grant to investigate post-traumatic stress (PTS) and depression in cardiac patients came at just the right time.
The assistant professor of psychology already had created and implemented a screening program for ethnically diverse cardiology patients at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, to identify patients who also needed mental health care. She and a team collected data on some 1,000 patients.
Preliminary information showed that when a mental health practitioner is embedded and available right in the cardiac clinic, cardiac patients are more willing to seek psychiatric help for depression or PTS.
Now, Annunziato will launch a longitudinal study of the same patients to see how much those cardiac patients who originally suffered from PTS have seen their physical condition worsen. The study will be one of the first of its kind to measure the effect of psychiatric symptoms in heart patients over time, Annunziato said.
“There is data to say that folks who are depressed are more likely to experience negative physical consequences after a heart attack, such as re-hospitalization, or even death,” she said. “Our group is suggesting that it is the same with PTS.”
Because of the huge potential for negative results in patients with a cardiac condition, it is important to identify those whose risk may be exacerbated by a mental health issue, Annunziato said.
Eventually, Annunziato will seek to publish the results of “A Prospective Investigation of Posttraumatic Stress, Depression and Medical Outcomes in Cardiac Patients,” in a top-tier journal.