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Wayne B. Jonas, MD, President and CEO, Samueli Institute

How does an individual achieve resilience and flourish, even when faced with a trauma or stress? How the mind, body and spirit reacts and transitions to a new normal stems from multiple factors and can result in different outcomes. In the process, the individual may evolve and transform, paving the way for new skills that will prepare them for new challenges in the future. A whole systems, whole person understanding of resilience is best approached through a dynamic systems framework and is a subject that researchers are only beginning to understand. Samueli Institute has been working to cast further light on these processes.

InterfaceFocusCoverIn a special issue of the Royal Society’s Interface Focus, a prominent, peer-reviewed, UK-based journal, Samueli Institute convened a team of top researchers from diverse fields of study to examine the effects of resilience from a whole systems perspective. This multidisciplinary group included experts in systems biology and systems modeling, psychology, neuroscience, psychoneuroendocrinology, medical care, integrative medicine and top leadership from the Department of Defense (DoD) and National Institutes of Health (NIH). The range of topics explored included environmental dynamics, inflammatory responses, relationships between sleep and resilience, response to major stress and trauma such as during training, deployment and war, disaster or civil disturbances, and handling of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and brain injury. These topics are thoughtfully considered in this edition.

A few years back, our team examined the concept of whole systems health and resilience and its relevance for the military population. These efforts culminated in the Total Force Fitness model, which was a paradigm shift that addressed maintaining health, readiness, resilience, recovery and optimal performance in the DoD. The need, outlined by the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, goes beyond fitness to “adapt to the chaos and complexities of battle” and its aftermath. When transitioning to the civilian world, these warriors need to remain vigilant while also peacefully coexisting. While service members need to train and prepare for battle, the same consideration and preparation is needed for their inevitable transition from military member to civilian citizen. Our findings on the complex issue of Total Force Fitness can be found on our website.

Moving forward with this analysis it is important to remember that a person is more than the symptoms that they may experience or the parts that we analyze. All individuals are unique and will experience and respond to pain, trauma or stressors in very different ways. As we continue to focus on healing the whole person – the mind, body and spirit – we must take steps to prepare, adapt and thrive throughout life. As researchers we are tasked to help gain an understanding of how the person is able to do this, and through a holistic, systems approach, accurately capture the ways in which individuals receive and respond to stress and trauma and then move on with their lives to thrive and flourish. We hope you enjoy this special issue of Interface Focus.


 -Wayne B. Jonas, President and CEO