UC San Diego alumni, Cathy and Richard Tryon. Courtesy UC San Diego Health

A $1 million donation was announced to support research at UC San Diego aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of pediatric patients who suffered traumatic facial deformities.

The gift from UCSD alumni Cathy and Richard Tryon will support what the university says is first-of-its-kind research into the impacts that trauma, surgery, and living with visible scars has on the quality of life of children.

The donation was made in part due to a car crash Richard Tryon suffered at 9-years-old that left him with facial injuries.

Tryon, who is now 71, said, the psychological impact of the accident has been substantial and is often overlooked when considering treatment.

“I have had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder ever since my accident,” he said. “Throughout the years, doctors haven’t always understood that they needed to treat the whole patient. The psychological injuries have to be treated just as much as the physical injuries.”

The Cathy and Richard Tryon Pediatric Facial/Psychological Trauma Research Fund will support projects led by Dr. Amanda Gosman, director of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at UC San Diego Health.

Gosman said, “Ultimately, my goal is to create a tool that can continually assess quality of life for these kids just like we check their vital signs. Living with a facial deformity can be devastating, but with appropriate interventions, either psychological, social or surgical, we have the opportunity to make a significant impact in this patient population.”

Gosman’s team has been conducting interviews with patients and family members, as well as collecting data in order to develop individualized interventions.

Validation of the team’s survey is likely to be a three to five-year project with a goal of interviewing 500 to 1,000 children and parents, according to UCSD.

“The incredibly generous donation from Cathy and Richard will help build the research infrastructure to validate the data collected from our survey, as well as build a team of experts to support research and psychological clinical care. We can then monitor the mental health outcomes of these patients and customize their treatment plans,” Gosman said.

“Richard has taken his personal experience and is using it to truly change a lot of lives for the better, as well as provide the opportunity to change access to mental health services and even raise awareness about facial equality so that we can make a profound difference for future generations,” she said.

— City News Service contributed to this article

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