Paging Dr. Aikins…

In a few short minutes, I’m going to be conducting an interview via Skype with Dr. Deane Aikins. As I mentioned in a previous post, Dr. Aikins has worked extensively with the military over the past several years, researching treatment methodologies for PTSD. For a number of years, he was an associate professor at Yale University, and is now at Wayne.

When researching various scholarly papers, Dr. Aikins’s name kept coming up. I reached out to him a few weeks ago, and he was not only quick to respond but also quite friendly and approachable.

A few days ago I submitted the following list of questions to him:

1.) Research indicates that female veterans are almost twice as likely as males to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Why is that?

2.) Statistics releases from the Dept. of Veteran Affairs suggest that, every fifty-five minutes, a veteran commits suicide. The numbers also suggest that most of those veterans suffer from PTSD and/or TBI. Put in simpler terms, in the last several years, more servicemen and -women have died because of PTSD than in actual combat. What can be done to change this?

3.) Many combat vets resort to using alcohol and/or illegal drugs to mask their symptoms when prescription drugs fail to do so. Have their been any recent pharmaceutical advances to help reduce this activity? What other steps can the loved ones of these vets take to help prevent this?

4.) Recent research suggests that playing video games such as Tetris can actually help reduce the effects of PTSD. What are your thoughts on this?

5.) Medical marijuana is now available to many individuals with PTSD. Is this an avenue being explored by the military? What are the benefits and detriments of prescribing it?

6.) What, in your estimation, are the biggest obstacles facing effective treatment of PTSD in combat vets?

7.) Any additional comments?

He responded by saying that this would probably be an easier conversation to have voice-to-voice, so we agreed to Skype.

This is my first time Skyping, so in case something gets screwed up, he’s also furnished me with his telephone number.

Because, you know, sometimes technology is evil.

I’ve done dozens of interviews before; I did used to work for a newspaper, after all. And I’ve conducted a number of online interviews with professionals of various fields (though mostly in the pop culture field), but this is my first with a medical professional.

I’m glad I have this list of questions to use as a guidepost, but I’m sure we’ll stray from it considerably. And that’s okay; in prepping for this (and this entire project as a whole), I’ve frequently referenced Postmodern Interviewing for strategy ideas. One that I’m following is the idea that interviews should be fluid and dynamic. It’s good to have certain talking points that I want to cover, but if the interviewee (here, Dr. Aikins) takes the conversation in a different direction, then that’s actually a good thing. Allowing him to go off on tangents (provided they’re germane to the topic and not, say, who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman) may help reveal far more than I originally anticipated. This is often a wise strategy with in-person interviews, and not one that can be effective through email. But because we’re skyping, the same idea applies.

We’re due to talk in five minutes, so I’m going to do one last hair check and sign off.

Wish me luck!

3 thoughts on “Paging Dr. Aikins…

  1. Hey Joe! It’s awesome that you’ve been able to contact such an expert in your field. It seems like you’ve been doing a lot of research since you have such detailed and thought provoking questions. I’ll be interested in reading your post-interview blog as well!

  2. Great preparation, Joe. You really had all your ducks in a row. Using Skype was a great resource to use for your interview of Dr. Aikins. The strategy you decided to use from “Post Modern Interviewing” is a great strategy. I also agree you can get more from the interviewee by letting them speak freely without interruption.

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