Dr. Alauna Curry, who describes herself as “America’s only Trauma Psychiatrist,” has retired from personal practice and dedicated herself to equipping others with the knowledge and skills to service and minister to the traumas that Curry contends are way more common than most believe.
The Defender spoke with Curry, a St. Louis native, so we could learn more about the person behind the annual Trauma C.U.R.E. (Creators Using Radical Empathy) event and “skills over pills” approach to better Black mental health.
DEFENDER: Tell us about your education.
CURRY: I did my undergraduate work at Xavier, and then I came to Houston for medical school at Baylor College of Medicine. And then I stayed at Baylor College of Medicine for my psychiatry residency which I finished in 2011 and started working at the VA. And I was at the VA all the way until I retired in 2020, I think officially January of 2021. But I started having health challenges in 2017 that made me have to step back and really retool my career. So, Dr. Curry is retired. She’s on the island somewhere, drinking Mojitos with her feet kicked up. And that’s when Dr. Alauna was born. It’s a big job, if you will. It’s a spiritual calling.
DEFENDER: A spiritual calling?
CURRY: It was not ever what I wanted to do. Dr. Alauna, trauma psychiatrist came because God snatched me like, “Ah, no ma’am. We need you, ma’am. You need to come over here.” And it really was a God-led process because it was a constant asking of “Something is wrong with humans.” And I could see that from my position. I could see that as much as we knew about mental health—and I went to great institutions, prestigious institutions; I was trained by the best—And I’m like, “If this is the best that we have, something is missing here.” And what is missing is a widespread understanding of our emotions and our biology and how those are inextricably linked to our brain.
DEFENDER: So, was “Trauma Psychiatrist” what elementary school-aged Alauna wanted to be when she grew up?
CURRY: Heck no <laughs>. I don’t think I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. But I knew I wanted to be something in healthcare. But I do think that pretty early on I recognized that I wanted to be a doctor. I was a straight-A student. I only got two Bs in my whole life. I was a summa cum laude, 4.0 student my entire life. So, I was always a lover of understanding and asking, “Why?”
DEFENDER: Any hobbies?
CURRY: I love to read. I tear through books when I can. I love to sing, dance and make music. I play the piano. I constantly have music going in my house. I like to ride horses when I can. And mostly just raising my kids. They’re eight, 11 and 22. They’re all fun in their own unique ways. So, my hobby is figuring out how to parent while still having some fun and some space for myself.
DEFENDER: Any advice for Black girls, whether they are future trauma psychiatrists or not?
CURRY: Love yourself first. We live in a society that tells us to put other people first. I believe that that is a fundamental and often fatal flaw that our entire global culture has of not teaching people to center their selves on self-love, self-care, boundaries, and then build the career, family and life that you want around you feeling nurtured and cared for and loved. And by doing that, you do a lot of healing along the way.