Erin Finley


Erin Finley is a medical anthropologist who received her Ph.D. from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her research concentrates on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst the veteran community and their families. One of her main contributions to medical anthropology has been unveiling explanatory models of illness, sufferance, and addiction caused by PTSD via ethnographic methods. Her research has become invaluable in designing new and improved methods for negotiating the challenges of PTSD and she has contributed a vast amount of input for programs which take veteran experiences into consideration when treating the disorder. Recently, she has focused her work on the social relationships found within military institutions and how those relationships affect the buffering of PTSD or the development of PTSD (i.e. relationships with commanders, chaplains, and the American public).FinleyEsmall.jpg


Finley is an Investigator with the Veterans Evidence-based Research Dissemination and Implementation Center (VERDICT) at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor with the Division of Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Dr. Finley holds both a Ph.D. in medical anthropology as well as a Master's in Public Health from Emory University. She has previously worked in public health and preventive medicine research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Boston University Medical Center. Her research has examined links between trauma, physical and mental health in a variety of settings, including Guatemala and Northern Ireland, and across a variety of populations, including refugees, Veterans, and methadone and detoxification clinic patients. Author of Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (Cornell University Press, 2011), her primary research interests include PTSD and the implementation of evidence-based treatments for Veterans, interventions promoting resilience for individuals and families, and the role of social relationships in shaping health behaviors and outcomes.

Research and Work

Finley’s book Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, shows the importance of sociocultural structures, institutions, and belief systems with regards to mental health outcomes. Her research presents itself through explanatory models of psychological illness and the importance of exposing personal narratives through ethnographic work. Given the idea that anthropological explanatory models include cultural, biological, and educational elements, such research is a crucial step in the right direction to better understand the nature of PTSD. Some of her most significant findings have come from interactions between veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and the many different relationships they form which have attributed to the development/suppression of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse.

Finley is also known for her work with domestic violence amongst the veteran population. In her 2010 paper entitled, “Patterns and perceptions of intimate partner violence committed by returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Finley et al. discuss the many constructs which can either increase or decrease violent outbursts from veterans returning from an active combat zone. These include social interactions that are dependent on roles occupied within the military as well as cultural interpretations of war, trauma, and dislocation.

Furthermore, Finley focuses a majority of her research on the importance of ethnographic approaches when attempting to understand the justification and rationale behind certain behaviors which can cause adverse reactions when dealing with trauma. Ethnography matters because it reveals cultural innuendos that are often overlooked by clinicians and health care practitioners that are attempting to understand “meaning making” and its connection with illness progression. In looking at cultural influences involved when assessing psychological resilience, Finley has identified the importance that cultural embodiment plays and the several sociocultural institutions the fuel the understanding of trauma, stress, and identity. This paradigm is applicable beyond a military context and can be useful when understanding traumatic events associated with natural disasters, life-altering encounters, or an extremely stressful life-event situation (i.e. enduring sexual assault or the like) as well as how different individuals interpret distress. Digging into the “deep play” of personal interpretations of trauma as well as the inter-linking social connections which define a person’s role within an institution all play a significant part when understanding the complexities of a psychosomatic illness such as PTSD.


Cultural Aspects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: Thinking of Meaning and Risk

Cultural Aspects of PTSD. Part II: Narrative and Healing

Major Publications

Finley, E., Battaglia, T. A. and Liebschutz, J. M. (2003). Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Speak Out. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 18: 617–623

Finley, E., Baker, M., Pugh, M. J., Peterson, A. (2010). Patterns and Perceptions of Intimate Partner Violence Committed by Returning Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Family Violence, 25 (8): 737-743

Finley, Erin P.; Pugh, Mary Jo; Noel, Polly H.; Brown, Peter J. (2011).Validating a Measure of Self-Efficacy for Life Tasks in Male OEF/OIF Veterans. Psychology of Men & Masculinity.

Finley, E. 2011. Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD Among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Cornell University Press, New York.


Erin Finley Biography

Dr. Daniel Lende Interview with Dr. Erin Finley (via