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Neuropsychology Researcher Celebrates 60 Years

Gerald Goldstein was presented a 60-year service plaque by VA Pittsburgh Interim Director Barbara Forsha.

Gerald Goldstein was presented a 60-year service plaque by VA Pittsburgh Interim Director Barbara Forsha.

By Sheila Tunney, Public Affairs Office
Friday, October 2, 2015

When VA Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Goldstein started his career, gas cost about 23 cents per gallon, William Holden was voted most popular movie star, and having schizophrenia meant you had a bad upbringing--by bad parents.

Everyone knows how times have changed and as to the latter, Goldstein, 84, a Korean War era Veteran, firmly states: "Nobody believes that anymore!"

One of the reasons no one believes that any longer is because of the 60 years Goldstein has spent studying mental health and neuropsychology. His work has shaped the minds of thousands of researchers and health care providers studying and treating behavioral and neurological disorders.

Goldstein is recognized as one of a handful of career research scientists in the Veterans Health Administration, a title he was awarded through competitive merit review. It's a title he still holds dear.

"When I was awarded that, I was very proud. There are very few of us," Goldstein said.

He arrived in Pittsburgh in 1975 after 20 years with the Topeka VA and the University of Kansas, where he earned a doctorate in clinical psychology. He came at the urging of Dr. Peter Stajduhar, who was trying to rebuild ties with the University of Pittsburgh's psychology department.

"There was an affiliation for a long time and it broke up. Stajduhar wanted me to head up the program to reinstate it. I became the coordinator for research, and we started a research program," said Goldstein.

That fledgling program has grown into multi-million dollar research collaboration between VA Pittsburgh, the university and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Goldstein has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and countless other articles, including a series on contemporary neurobehavioral syndromes written early in his career.

"These are things that weren't known to exist before the middle of the 20th century," Goldstein said. "Autism, for example, is a newly recognized disorder. I wrote about sleep apnea, which nobody knew about until the '60s," Goldstein said. "I wrote a book with chapters about all these new disorders."

More research into brain function in Veterans who were alcoholics or had schizophrenia led him and his peers to new assessment and treatment tools that are still being used today. Similarly, his body of work is still growing and his outlook for researching mental health disorders at VA is hopeful.

"The VA looks very positive for psychiatric research because of the interest recently in post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury and the combination of the two," he said. "The VA has basically paid for the major research in PTS, and that's a very good thing about it."

Goldstein was presented a 60-year service plaque in August 2015 by VA Pittsburgh Interim Director Barbara Forsha.

"The last time I got one of those awards was at 50 years, and the comment I made was, 'Yeah, 50 years...seems like a hundred,' (chuckle). I don't think they appreciated it," said Goldstein.

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