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Jonathan Shay is a doctor and clinical psychiatrist. He holds a B.A from Harvard and an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His early medical work was with the behaviour of brain cells in and after strokes, but after suffering a stroke and financial hard times, he began work for a United States Department of Veterans' Affairs outpatient clinic in Boston, MA. While he worked there, in his words, "[t]he veterans simply kidnapped [him]," and his work with them "utterly redirected [his] life."
With this, in 1987, he shifted from biochemistry to the still-developing study of Posttraumatic Stress (PTS). He has written two books on the nature and treatment of PTSD, "Achilles in Vietnam" and "Odysseus in America" , which discuss the nature of the ailment by analogy between the experiences of American soldiers, particularly veterans of the Vietnam War, and the similar experiences depicted in the Iliad and the Odyssey.
He is a passionate advocate of improved psychiatric counseling for soldiers, and more vigorous effort to prevent or heal PTS, and has cited classical Greek theater and the collective mourning described in the Iliad as possible precedents.
He is very highly regarded in military circles, and has received a Macarthur "Genius Grant" fellowship in 2007 to further support his work.
Whether as an essential aspect or a separate but co-morbid condition to PTS, he introduced and has pushed heavily and almost by himself for the official recognition and acceptance by the psychological community of the clinical concept of Moral Injury and necessary treatment strategies to repair it. Indeed Moral Injury is one of the primary if not the primary personal theme for the soldiers described in his books "Achilles in Vietnam" and "Odysseus in America" leading to lifelong psychological dysfunction from PTSD and other treatment-resistant deficiencies in prior or basic functioning.