Esther Fingerhut never knew her older sister Joyce, but her death at age 8 from a brain tumor resonated with Esther nonetheless.
“She died before I was born, and seeing the impact on my family made me think about being involved in a profession that helps people coping with loss,” said Fingerhut, who is graduating with a doctorate in counseling psychology from the Graduate School of Education (GSE).
“I wanted to be the person who helped in that moment.”
Born and raised in Forest Hills, Queens, Fingerhut earned a bachelor’s in psychology at the University of Maryland, and began her graduate studies at Fordham in 2009. Under the guidance of Joseph Ponterotto, PhD, professor of counseling psychology, she completed her dissertation, “Consistency of Self-Reported Symptoms and Etiological Events of Afghan/Iraq War Veterans.”
Working at the Veterans Administration in Manhattan, she examined the screening tools the VA uses to assess whether veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She found that self-reporting measures like yes/no questions are unreliable because they fail to distinguish between traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and PTSD, which often has similar symptoms.
“You might have headaches and, because you hear about TBI in football, think [they’re caused] by that,” she said. “But it really was PTSD—because it was terrifying to lose consciousness in the middle of a war zone in Iraq.”