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GU Alumna Returns to Spokane to Discuss Childhood Trauma Research

A San Francisco researcher who studies how childhood hardships affect the health of people going forward is coming to Spokane Wednesday to speak at her alma mater. Dr. Nicole Bush has been named the first distinguished alumni researcher at Gonzaga’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Integrity.

Nicole Bush began her research career as an undergraduate at Gonzaga in the late 1990s. Now she’s an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco.

“I look specifically at family conflict. I look specifically at trauma exposure in children. I look specifically at factors related to socioeconomic status, poverty, family education and how those things uniquely contribute to differences in biology that might predict who is at risk for mental and physical illness,” Bush said.

Many children who experience poverty, dysfunction and violence cannot overcome all that trauma and have difficulties as adults. Some turn to drugs to escape. Others get into legal trouble. But some overcome all of that and have successful lives. Bush tries to figure out what are the factors that determine why people turn out differently .

“The greater number of adverse experiences, particularly early in life, the greater risk for health problems later," Bush said. "But we also find that there are individual differences in people’s temperaments, in their stress physiology and in their social world, for example, different types of parenting. that can really affect how much someone is at risk or whether or not someone is protected from these types of adversities.”

Bush will give a free speech Wednesday evening at 7:30 in the Hemmingson Center Ballroom.