Dr. Buckles credits the education she received in Adelphi's doctoral program with preparing her to lead Loma Linda's international trauma team.

“My experience at Adelphi … produced an advanced scholar practitioner with the ability to think outside the box and see what is and what could be and pull together solutions in unique ways.” —Beverly Buckles, D.S.W. ’89

by Ela Schwartz


Dr.Buckles with child survivors in the Ivory Coast

When Beverly Buckles, D.S.W. ’89, became dean of the School of Behavioral Health at Loma Linda University, she made it clear that her role was not going to be purely administrative. The direct practice of social work is, as she put it, “in my DNA.”

In addition to serving as dean, Dr. Buckles is a founding member of Loma Linda’s International Behavioral Health Trauma Team. The team, which can consist of faculty clinicians, alumni and current graduate and doctoral students, has traveled around the world to treat people traumatized by man-made or natural disasters, from earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The trauma team doesn’t encourage people to discuss and analyze the horrific events they’ve endured, nor do they dispense medication. As Dr. Buckles explained, developing nations lack the healthcare infrastructure of therapists and physicians to continue such treatments. In fact, the stigma surrounding mental illness in some cultures is so severe that those who display symptoms face rejection, harassment and even violence.

Instead, Dr. Buckles’ team focuses on treating the physical responses to trauma. Utilizing the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM)™, individuals are taught to balance the nervous system, to relax tense muscles and calm racing hearts to bring the body back to a sense of well-being. The skills are easily learned and mastered so that people can practice self-care. Using the Community Resiliency Model (CRM)™, they can then administer the treatment to others after the trauma team has departed, thus creating resilient, self-sustaining communities.

Dr. B.-with-children-who-survived-the-El-Salvador-mudslide.

Dr. Buckles with survivors of the El Salvador mudslide

One of Dr. Buckles’ most rewarding experiences involved arriving in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to treat survivors of a bloody civil war who had fled into the jungle. These villages had a history of warring with one another and in all likelihood would return to this state. She explained to the village leaders that they could choose the path of warfare or become five strong, supportive villages.

Before the trauma team left the area, they held a ceremony in which participants created a rock garden. One local man brought a rock with a sword painted on one side and a shield on the other, then placed the rock shield side up. The villages had decided to live in peace.

Dr. Buckles’ social work journey began across the world in a rural farming community in eastern Oregon. It may sound idyllic, but “the range of wealth to poverty was extraordinary,” she said. With a dearth of government programs, her parents taught her “that we are the keepers of others,” she said, adding, “We didn’t have the Red Cross; we had my mom.”

After obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Washington, Dr. Buckles was accepted into various doctoral programs but chose Adelphi after the director called to ask if she’d be able to emotionally handle moving across the country to the more fast-paced urban environment. She said she was surprised at receiving such personalized attention. “The other schools couldn’t have been more different—I was a number to them,” she said. “I knew at that moment I needed to be where people thought about things like that. I met lovely people at Adelphi I will have as friends forever.”

With the emotional support came intellectual challenge. “My experience at Adelphi empowered me to discover my brain and tools I didn’t know I had,” she said. “That program produced an advanced scholar practitioner with the ability to think outside the box and see what is and what could be and pull together solutions in unique ways. I tell my doctoral students here, if you invest and work hard, you can have the same amazing transformation.”

The Loma Linda International Behavioral Health Trauma Team and their work assisting the people of the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan were featured in the series Life on the Line, which aired on select public television stations in fall 2015 and hosted by Lisa Ling. According to the website, the documentary series “gives an inspiring look into the resilience of humankind.”

View the trailer of Dr. Buckles’ episode:

This article appeared in Impact, the School of Social Work newsletter.

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