SAN ANTONIO — From overcoming nightmares to battling stigma, San Antonio once again attracted some of the top experts in post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.

  • Veterans, scientists and providers available at PTSD Conference
  • Dr. Jon Kerstetter, a veteran, overcame debilitating PTSD to become a published author
  • Conference topics included nightmare treatment, overcoming stigma, clinical care and substance abuse treatment

"It's the one developing go-to meeting if you will," Alan Peterson with UT Health San Antonio said.

For three years, San Antonio's Combat PTSD Conference has attracted scientists, providers, and veterans.

"I was an ER doc, a combat flight surgeon, and I deployed to Iraq in 2003, 04, 05, and a little bit of 06. So three tours," veteran Dr. Jon Kerstetter said.

Among this group of more than 500, you'll find veterans like Kerstetter. They carry battle scars, that are seen and unseen. 

"I come home, I have a stroke. It was pretty difficult because I ended up losing my entire medical career and military career, and to compound that, when I came back I had PTSD,” he said. “My reading level went from a physician's level down to about the third or fourth grade. I couldn't walk very well. People thought I was drunk because I was weaving all over the place, and I still have my cane."

A decade later, he's a publihsed author and is sharing his story at the conference.

"This is really the only conference that occurs that's really focused on combat PTSD, war-related PTSD, so we've got a lot of individuals from the VA, the Department of Defense, [and] civilians," Peterson said.

Some of this year's hot topics are about how to treat nightmares, overcoming stigma, clinical care, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse.

"This year actually about half of our speakers are scientists and clinicians that have applied and are coming in from across the country," Peterson said.

Kerstetter says his message is here to stay.

"You have got to take that first step of walking in the office and saying ‘I need you. I have the story of me, and I need somebody to help me develop that,'" Kerstetter said.

The conference is presented by the STRONG STAR Consortium and the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD, based in the UT Health San Antonio Department of Psychiatry.