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Veteran helping veterans: Ph.D. student receives leadership award

Greg Urquhart, winner of the Karen P. DePauw Leadership Award
Urquhart, winner of the Karen P. DePauw Leadership Award

By Kara McMurray, College of Education

PULLMAN, Wash. – When Greg Urquhart returned in 2005 from a tour of duty in Iraq, he noticed there were not many options available for Native American veterans. He set out to change that.

For his efforts, Urquhart has been awarded the Karen P. DePauw Leadership Award, which recognizes a doctoral graduate student who has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and university involvement at Washington State University. The student must also be working toward completing his or her dissertation.

“I came back and noticed that a lot of the treatments available didn’t fit my world view,” he said.

Iraq duty leads to psychology major

Urquhart’s experience in Iraq led him into his current line of study in psychology. He served in the Army and completed two tours of duty, one for nine months right after he was married and the other for one year and one day.

“I wanted to understand PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) more, its causes, and how it can be treated,” he said.

Specifically, though, he wanted to look into how PTSD affects Native American veterans and what can be done for them — the focus of his doctoral studies.

“When I got into graduate school full time, I really started on it,” Urquhart said. “It’s been a good six years of studying.”

720 veterans surveyed

For his research, Urquhart conducted the largest pan-tribal study on Native American veterans and PTSD that has ever been done. He was able to study 720 veterans through his survey process.

“The survey showed what aspects are barriers to seeking treatments for PTSD and what aspects encourage it,” he said.

In addition to conducting that survey, Urquhart founded WSU’s Society of Indian Psychologists chapter. There are only two chapters in the entire nation. He also has been working in career counseling for veterans for the last six years.

“I hit the ground running here, and I never stopped,” Urquhart said.

More advocates needed

Urquhart has already been able to see the impact of his research, something he attributes to the area that was understudied that needed to be researched.

“There aren’t enough voices out there to advocate for native peoples,” he said.

He has been able to present at 22 conferences across the nation, including to tribes and universities.

“I’ve gotten wonderful opportunities to present. You can’t keep that information from the people,” he said.

From research to action

One of Urquhart’s major goals as he undertook this subject was to have it make a difference and to be shared. He assured his survey participants that the work was more than just research; it was going to have an impact.

“I want to use these findings,” he said. “Research is great, but if you don’t put it to practical use, then it’s nothing.”

Some of his findings included that many Native American veterans utilize services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but many of them are dissatisfied with those services.

“A lot of them wanted to see a blending of traditional western technology with traditionally spiritual technology,” Urquhart said. “The cultural competency is huge.”

Urquhart hopes to see treatment options in the future that are more tailored to individuals and groups.

“With that, you get something that’s closer to meeting needs,” he said.

Urquhart will begin an internship with the VA in Lakewood, Wash., in July, and it is there that he hopes to expand his research and begin making practical implications.

“I feel like it’s already making a huge impact. It’s already spreading around,” he said. “But I want to use this. I want to start a trial program for healing through my internship with the VA.”

Urquhart also noted that he had a lot of support in his research, especially from his advisor, Dr. Phyllis Erdman, and his family.

“My family has been my rock. A lot of people say they don’t know how they’d do something if they had a family, but I’m the opposite. I couldn’t have done this without them,” he said. “My wife and my kids, that was my motivation to do everything I’ve done.”



  • Brandon Chapman, communications director, College of Education, 509-335-6850,

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