International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

President's Message

Posted 1 December 2007 in StressPoints by Stuart Turner, MD, MA, FRCP, FRCPsych

I would like to start my term as president of ISTSS by acknowledging the substantial achievements of the last year. ISTSS is in reasonable financial health again. The 2007 conference attracted a record number of attendees. We have formed harmonious international collaborations with other societies for the study of traumatic stress around the world. These are all signs of real success.

I would therefore like to express particular thanks to Elana Newman as outgoing president and to all in her Executive Committee — Joe Ruzek, Nancy Kassam-Adams, Dean Kilpatrick and Lori Zoellner. The committee has been especially busy during the last year and has quietly helped to maintain balance and direction in the work of the Society. I also acknowledge the evident success of her program chairs — Joanne Davis and Jon Elhai.

I should also like to take the opportunity to welcome my new Executive Committee – Ulrich Schnyder (vice president), Patricia Resick (president-elect), John Fairbank (treasurer), Marylene Cloitre (secretary), Elana Newman (past president) and Rick Koepke (executive director). This year’s elections, unusually, have brought two past-presidents back onto the board, making a total of four in all (John Fairbank, Sandy McFarlane, Elana Newman and Bessel van der Kolk). I don’t think that any of my predecessors have been in such a fortunate position, and I intend to seek their advice and wisdom throughout the year.

I think the big challenge for our Society is to ensure that it remains inclusive (and, equally important, to ensure that it successfully portrays inclusion as part of its image). Recently, I have been reflecting on how equilibrium is maintained in natural systems. If one element of a system declines, there are usually balancing mechanisms to correct this in future years. This does not always seem to be the case for our Society. For example, if in one year there are by chance fewer conference submissions on a particular topic, then those with similar interests attending the Annual Meeting that year may wrongly form the impression that the Society is not very interested in the topic area and may therefore decide not to submit their work the following year. This leads to an increasing imbalance, rather than self-correction, combined with a mistaken and accidental perception of exclusivity.

I hope we can demonstrate that we really do welcome scientists, clinicians and advocates from all branches of our field to come together and share their findings in our meetings and publications. If we can accomplish this, our Society will remain healthy and vibrant.

Plans are already underway for the next Annual Meeting, which will be held in Chicago, USA, November 13–15 2008, with Pre-Meeting Institutes November 12. The theme of this meeting is “Terror and its Aftermath.” Terror suggests both a state of extreme fear and the presence of a perpetrator using violence to intimidate or oppress. This theme is not restricted to terrorism and the role of peace-keeping and emergency services but also includes, for example, the effects of sexual and physical abuse on children, inter-community violence and state-sponsored violence and torture. Jane Herlihy (2008 program chair) and I would particularly welcome submissions in areas that have been under-represented in previous years (although unfortunately there can be no guarantee of success in oral submissions, as each year the meeting is oversubscribed). Further information on the submission process is already available on the ISTSS Web site.

Prior to the Annual Meeting, ISTSS will host a one-day symposium in London, UK, on June 16, 2008. This will be an opportunity to hear current and past members of the board of directors present material on the theme, “Interventions for Traumatized Populations.” It will include updates on some of the main treatment modalities as well as issues arising in work with specific survivor groups. I am very pleased to report that, in the spirit of inclusivity, planning for the London meeting is taking place in collaboration with the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and EMDR-Europe, who will also hold their own events in London June 13-15. We will post information on the ISTSS London symposium and on these other events on the ISTSS Web site shortly.