International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

President's Message

Posted 1 December 2006 in StressPoints by Elana Newman, PhD

As I started to write my first presidential column, my MP3 CD set of the 22nd ISTSS annual meeting arrived. I have been enjoying listening to all the sessions — my teaching, clinical work and research have been invigorated by what I learned from speakers and audience participants both at the conference and through these recordings. I would like to applaud the program committee, conference co-chairs Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, and Lucy Berliner, MSW, all Headquarters Staff, and Past President Dean Kilpatrick, PhD, for planning a conference that had both breadth and depth. In addition to superior quality, the conference also featured record-breaking attendance with nearly 1,300 delegates. Thanks to all of you who attended and contributed to the success of this meeting!
 
Getting Involved
During the conference, several ISTSS members approached me indicating that they wanted to get more involved in ISTSS but were unsure how to proceed. As a member organization, every ISTSS accomplishment reflects our members’ generous donations of expertise, experience, time and effort.  We would love to have your contributions as well. Much of the society’s work occurs within ongoing committees, short-term task forces and special interest groups (SIGs),  which are listed on the ISTSS Web site. If you are interested in joining any of these groups, simply write the chair of the committee, whose e-mails are listed on the Web site. A few committees are full or have special requirements (e.g., Past Presidents membership is restricted to past presidents, Nominations Committee membership requires a board vote, etc.) but most other groups can use your help.

How Does ISTSS Governance Work?
Several conference delegates asked me to explain how ISTSS governance works. The entire board of directors, whom members elect, meets twice a year in person to discuss matters of governance and make decisions about the society’s direction. As issues emerge, we also communicate electronically  throughout the year. Each and every board member represents members' interests, so feel free to contact any board member to discuss ISTSS matters. I am delighted to welcome new board members Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, Norah Feeny, PhD, and Jean Beckham, PhD; and returning members, John Fairbank, PhD, and Joop de Jong, MD, PhD. I also would like to extend my deepest appreciation for the members rotating off the board after many years of dedicated and visionary service: Chris Brewin, Judith Cohen, MD, Edna Foa, PhD,  and Barbara Rothbaum, PhD. 

As per our bylaws, the Executive Committee, a small group, meets monthly to function as the decision-making body regarding day-to-day operations of the organization. Last year’s Executive Committee consisted of Dean Kilpatrick, PhD (president); Stuart Turner, MD, MA, FRCP, FRCPsych (vice-president); Nancy Kassam-Adams, PhD (treasurer ); Danny Kaloupek, PhD (secretary); Barbara Rothbaum, PhD (past president); and myself as president-elect. This group worked diligently on behalf of ISTSS members. This year ISTSS is fortunate to have an equally dedicated Executive Committee consisting of Joe Ruzek, PhD (vice-president); Nancy Kassam-Adams (treasurer); Lori Zoellner, PhD (secretary); Dean Kilpatrick (past president); and Stuart Turner (president-elect).

The Board’s Five Priorities
Last summer, building on our existing mission and strategic plan, the Board of Directors identified a set of five priorities to guide the focus of the society over the next two-to-three years.  These goals are:
  • to expand efforts to promote advancement and exchange of knowledge about severe stress and trauma, including the exchange of information about research
  • to establish mechanisms to foster a dialogue between clinicians and researchers, as well as continuing to develop practice guidelines based on best-available research
  • to translate the implications of research findings for practice and policy, including continuing to advocate for the field of traumatic stress
  • to expand our own membership
  • to continue to focus on collaboration with other traumatic stress organizations around the world
ISTSS is experimenting with a number of new mechanisms to focus our energy on these goals. Each committee and task force is asked to send in their biannual reports commenting on if and how their work focuses on one or more of these aims. We have also restructured the Executive Committee to reflect these priorities. In addition, many of our committees are already hard at work meeting these goals. For example, our membership committee, led by Harold Kudler, MD, and Joanne Davis, PhD, created a new membership brochure. The membership committee is pursing several initiatives to increase membership; to support their work, I encourage you all to each recruit one new member to the society. I am excited that Lucy Berliner and Jonathan Bisson, DM, have agreed to chair a task force to advise the board how best to foster dialogue between clinicians and researchers.  

In addition to these board goals, I want to foster future leaders of the field, both among students and professionals.  I have invited committee member chairs, when appropriate, to locate a co-chair whom they may mentor, and also to include a student member on each committee.Our society is in good financial health although our means are modest, and I plan to continue to support the fine work of our Finance Committee in keeping us in good shape. Finding members who want to work on revenue generation ideas and fundraising is always a challenge. If any of you are interested in helping, ISTSS needs your energy.

2007 Annual Meeting
Immediately on the heels of our successful 2006 meeting, program co-chairs Joanne Davis, PhD, and Jon Elhai, PhD,  went to work preparing for the 2007 conference along with the program deputies. The theme for next year’s ISTSS conference, to be held in Baltimore, Md., Nov. 15-17, will focus on prevention of trauma and its ill effects.

Finally, I am honored by the opportunity you have given me to lead ISTSS during its 23rd year. My job is made easier by the strong legacy created by the collective work of each and every past president and board of directors. ISTSS has always been my professional home, a place that sustains my professional work and creativity.

ISTSS’s uniqueness stems from its commitment for the exchange of knowledge across diverse survivor groups, disciplines, theoretical frames, professions, countries and contexts. ISTSS allows global, interdisciplinary, cross-professional discourse about cutting-edge science, clinical work, policy and theory. This discourse challenges and stretches me, and keeps me anchored and hopeful in a field focused on helplessness, injustice and, in some cases, maleficience. The passion and commitment of ISTSS members to understand and/or intervene on behalf of those affected by trauma is truly invigorating.

Like my own home, ISTSS can be messy at times with various house projects spilling across rooms into the yard. Again like my own house, as ISTSS matures, the house needs upkeep — sometimes minor repairs and sometimes major renovations — to stay relevant. Yet the foundation of the society is strong and well-positioned to make a difference. I want for ISTSS to serve as your professional home too.