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Field Education Office Professional Development Workshop

BSW Cording & MSW Hooding

Ron Whalen, PhD

Dr. Ron Whalen, a 2011 PhD graduate, describes his two deployments to Iraq with the US Army as a transformative experience. After witnessing the effects of the Army’s stop-loss program and combat exposure on the mental health of Army soldiers, he decided to pursue a PhD in social work. He describes USC’s program as supportive of students with a military focus: “I am grateful for the faculty support of the Armed Services and the Department of Defense.”

Whalen’s dissertation examined the mental health outcomes of the Army’s strategy of whole-unit deployment. In the 21st century, the Army found that units performed better if they trained and deployed together. Whalen found that the resulting cohesion has some positive effects on individuals’ mental health.

While still a PhD student, Whalen co-wrote a psycho-educational intervention to address the mental health outcomes of soldiers with high combat exposure. The intervention is unique because it targets the entire unit. Those without diagnosed mental health issues, therefore, benefit along with those who truly need the intervention. 

Now at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Whalen is helping to develop standardized clinical assessment tools to aid clinicians in making return-to-duty decisions for soldiers seeking counseling for mental health problems. He said, “The heavy emphasis on research and quantitative data in the PhD program really helped prepare me to conduct my current research at Walter Reed.”


Dissertation Title

Individual- and Unit-Level Coping Among Combat Veterans Subject to Army Force Stabilization System Personnel Policy


Publications and Presentations

Whalen, R., Foral, T., Prevette, C. & Radford, K. (Submitted). Retrospective evaluation of a stigma reduction information operation. Military Behavioral Health. 

Whalen, R. (2010). “In Defense of After Action Reviews: The Art and Science of Small Unit Coping.” Military Review, March-April 2010. 

Ruzek, J. & Whalen, R. (2004), PTSD Prevention, Uniformed Services Social Work Conference.


Awards and Honors

Bronze Star, 2005 and 2012 

NATO medal, 2012 

Presidential Unit Citation, 2003 Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, 2003, 2005 and 2012 Combat Medic Badge, 2003 Army Commendation Medal, (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), 1984, 1998, 2001 Army Achievement Medal, (1 Oak Leaf Cluster), 1986, 1997 Army Good Conduct Medal, 1986 National Defense Service Medal, 1996 Humanitarian Service Medal, 1996 

Army Service Ribbon, 1996

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