Jessica Gill PHD

Dr. Jessica Gill’s interest in research began during her nursing undergraduate (B.S.N.) career, during which she volunteered with women and children whose lives were negatively affected by violence. She observed that this extreme stress resulted in differing outcomes with some women being substantially impaired, whereas others were able to recover. She questioned the mechanisms underlying these divergent responses to extreme stress. This line of questioning led her to pursue a graduate degree (M.S.) from Oregon Health and Science University in psychiatric nursing, which included clinical training in the PTSD program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Research questions about trauma and resiliency were amplified during her work with Vietnam veterans who remained impacted by their combat service decades after returning home. Based on these volunteer and clinical experiences, she decided to pursue a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Nursing. Her dissertation research demonstrated the presence of high rates of PTSD in urban health care seeking women, and that a PTSD diagnosis was associated with perceived health declines as well as with higher concentrations of inflammatory markers and a dysregulation of endocrine functioning.

Following completion of her Ph.D., she obtained a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) to better understand the biological mechanisms of PTSD and depression, finding central and peripheral alterations in the in-vivo functioning of both immune and endocrine systems. This line of research also led her to become a Clinical Investigator in the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine (CNRM).

At the CNRM, her program of research and clinical practice expanded to examining the biological mechanisms of PTSD and traumatic brain injury related impairments in service members where, again, she observed a high degree of differential response to combat trauma and TBIs. This experience led to questions regarding the mechanisms underlying these differential responses, a line of inquiry that could only be determined using a prospective design of patients immediately following a trauma. Dr. Gill returned to NINR as a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar to develop this program of research, which aims to determine the clinical and biological risks that predict PTSD onset and neurological compromise following a traumatic injury.