International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies


Elana Newman, PhD
ISTSS President

Since this is my last column as ISTSS president, I am pleased to take the opportunity to review some of the year’s activities and accomplishments; and to share observations and express gratitude to many of you.

Annual Meeting
As I write this column, the final program for the 23rd ISTSS Annual Meeting, “Preventing Trauma and its Effects,” is going to press. As I have written previously (February 2007 column), the program chairs (Joanne Davis and John Elhai) and I chose the theme of prevention with the aim of propelling ISTSS members to expand the ways we use prevention frameworks to understand, intervene and help trauma survivors and communities. I look forward to learning from all of my colleagues, both formally in sessions and informally as we chat with one another. 

I would like to thank the Program Committee members and headquarters staff for their excellent work. I would like to especially thank Elhai and Davis for the never-ending energy, vision, expertise, finesse and dedication they devoted to planning this conference. 

Organizational Issues
Much of the Society’s work this year has involved organizational housekeeping as we have focused on ways to work more efficiently and engage more members; clarify financial arrangements; align our efforts with ISTSS strategic plan priorities; consider continuing education options; and make board of director (BOD) processes more transparent. 

There are regular standing committees who do various ongoing tasks each year, including various annual award committees, the nomination committees, and the Calendar Committee. In addition to the work they do annually to help ISTSS function well, each group is also tidying up several policies and procedures. Thank you to all of these committees for their ongoing efforts. 

The Membership Committee has been extremely active this year expending enormous energy. I would like to thank the entire Membership Committee and co-chairs Harold Kudler and Elisa Triffleman for their steadfast dedication to these efforts

Several task forces are also hard at work. For example, our Diversity Task Force, headed by Elisa Triffleman, provided several ideas for the BOD to pursue to help further diversify our members. The BOD will examine recommendations for implementation during their November BOD meeting. 

Public Policy
This year ISTSS has dedicated more time and energy to public policy concerns under the leadership of Diane Elmore, public policy chair; and the continued work of our U.N. representatives, Yael Danieli, Elizabeth Carl and Joyce Braak. The U.N. Committee continues to do remarkable work advocating for trauma survivors’ needs to be recognized and addressed. A workshop at this year’s Annual Meeting will focus on advocacy to promote these efforts. 

On behalf of ISTSS, I have advocated in my capacity as president for inclusion of trauma experts on important U.S. Federal Committees and Scientific Review Panels, and increased funding for U.S. PTSD clinical programs to address veteran needs. Members of the Public Policy Committee worked closely with U.S. Senate co-sponsors of the Public Mental Health Emergency Preparedness Act (S 1452) for legislation to help prepare first responder for mental health consequences of public health emergencies. As an international society, ISTSS is learning how and when to advocate most effectively as various opportunities emerge; and we will continue to learn and develop this course and extend our efforts.

Treatment Guidelines
The proposed Treatment Guidelines have increased to 18 (from 14 in the first edition) because our field has grown to understand more about treating comorbid conditions and children. The 18 areas  reflect both the growth of the field and the unique diversity of ISTSS members.The guidelines review evidence for a diverse range of interventions and techniques that ISTSS members use, including pharmacological, cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, EMDR, psychosocial, creative arts, psychosocial rehabilitation, hypnosis, acute and early interventions, group, and marital and family therapy. 
I was delighted to see many members review and respond with comments about the scientific accuracy of the conclusions and recommendations of the 18 guidelines. In response to the feedback, authors and editors are making many changes, such as clarifying statements; checking for omitted references; adding pertinent references that describe well-controlled studies; and promoting consistency across the guidelines. 

On behalf of ISTSS, I would like to thank those of you who contributed feedback. With this input, the guidelines truly integrate ISTSS members’ collective expertise. Furthermore, our Society is indebted to the work of the many authors and the co-editors, Edna Foa, Terence Keane, Matthew Friedman and Judith Cohen for their steadfast work and professionalism throughout this massive project on behalf of ISTSS.

The ISTSS board will take action to approve the final version of the guidelines at an upcoming meeting. The guidelines and other contributions to the book will be submitted to the publisher, and we anticipate publication in 2008."

Other Products
Many committees and task forces have produced or are producing products, such as ongoing additions to the website project on dissemination of evidence-based practice. The Public Education Committee (chaired by Jean Beckham and Tori Reynolds) is finalizing a series of new public education videos for the Web site. The purpose of the videos is to offer a personalized glimpse into the nature of trauma,  how it affects us as individuals and how treatment can reduce these effects. Check the ISTSS Web site soon for more information.

Several special issues of the Journal of Traumatic Stress were published this year in addition to the regular issues. In fact, a special section of the August issue of the Journal received national press for articles on the ongoing controversy regarding the results of the 1988 National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). 

Collegial Dialogue and ISTSS Diversity
This year many members and non-members alike wrote me to express concern and interest, as well as engage in dialogue about various issues affecting ISTSS, the trauma field and the world. The passion, conviction and efforts of ISTSS members are remarkable: ISTSS members care deeply about the field. I am honored and awed to view the individual and collective commitment of our members to support advances in knowledge, clinical practice and policy about traumatic stress. I appreciate more than ever the ways that ISTSS offers a safe, collegial place where healthy, respectful debate can occur, within the context of our shared commitment to understanding and ameliorating the consequences of trauma. Thank you all for making ISTSS the vibrant organization it is. 

Finally, I would like to formally thank and recognize several people for their outstanding contributions this year. First I would like thank all the members of the Executive Committee (EC) who provided unwavering, reliable, and wise leadership for ISTSS this year on numerous matters: Stuart Turner, Nancy Kassam-Adams, Dean Kilpatrick, Josef Ruzek, and Lori Zoellner along with our talented executive director, Rick Koepke. I have appreciated the professionalism, judiciousness, timeliness, good humor and selflessness of all the EC members in addressing many issues. 

Similarly, the entire BOD served the organization well by putting the Society’s interests first. For example, BOD members agreed to meet without complaint for several additional informational and phone meetings to further Society aims. Furthermore, all of our headquarters staff have also worked extremely hard on behalf of ISTSS. 

I would like to thank John Fairbank and Bonnie Green who offered expertise and time to help with important tasks on short notice. Traumatic StressPoints Editor Anne DePrince deserves accolades not only for her great editorial skill, but willingness to accept my slightly tardy submissions! 

Finally I would like to thank all ISTSS members for the work you do. Promoting science and practice on behalf of trauma survivors is a noble cause and I share your commitment to preventing and ameliorating the effects of trauma. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with all of you this year in various activities on behalf of ISTSS.


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