International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

ISTSS Annual Meeting Offers Students Networking, Career Development

Posted 1 January 2008 in StressPoints by Heidi La Bash

Over three hundred students traveled from across the globe to attend the 23rd Annual Meeting of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies in Baltimore, Maryland. Their reasons for making the trek were as varied as their home locals. For example, Ms. Senem Eren traveled 25 hours from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, for what she calls her “eureka moments” – the sudden insights she gains when listening to or interacting with researchers she has previously only known through journals and books.

The Annual Meeting provides students the opportunity to not only interact with other researchers, but also to form collaborative relationships with them, as demonstrated by Vienna Nightingale of the Illinois Institute of Technology, who met several researchers she hopes to work with in the coming year. Amy Potts, a graduate student at the Fuller Theological Seminary, agrees: “Attending various seminars, workshops, and symposiums are a wonderful opportunity for students to make networking connections and build upon what they already have learned in the trauma arena.”

Outgoing student representatives Brian Allen and Mylea Charvat worked hard with conference planners to enrich the ISTSS student experience with programs such as the internship and postdoctoral networking fair and the student meeting. The networking fair provided students with the opportunity to meet with internship and post-doctoral programs across the country that offer specialized trauma training.

The student meeting and luncheon allowed students a personalized opportunity to network with ISTSS board members who attended the student luncheon, including outgoing ISTSS President Elana Newman, PhD and incoming ISTSS Vice President Ulrich Schnyder, MD. Students were also introduced to the new student representatives Joanna Legerski and Lynnette Averill, who encouraged students to become involved in a variety of upcoming student section projects. The student meeting concluded with an address by Courtney Ferrell from the Office of Research Training and Career Development at the National Institute of Mental Health, who provided valuable tips on grant writing and funding opportunities.

A number of students received accolades for their research at the conference. The Outstanding Student Achievement Award, sponsored by the Student Section, went to Anka Vujanovic, a 5th-year clinical psychology student at the University of Vermont. The award recognizes students with an outstanding combination of research, clinical, and teaching activities.

Lori Gray and Melissa Milanak were each honored with the Student Research Award, sponsored by the ISTSS Board of Directors. Ms. Gray was recognized for her research on environmental factors that contribute to traumatic stress reactions among firefighters, while Ms. Milanak was honored for her research on emotional numbing in adults. Isabeau Bousquet Des Groseilliers was the first- place winner of the Student Poster Award, again supported by the ISTSS Board, for her poster titled, “Two-Year Follow-up of a Secondary Prevention Intervention for PTSD: A Randomized-Control Trail.” Mark Gapen received honorable mention for his poster titled, “The Contribution of Community and Neighborhood Disorder to PTSD.”

Although there were some suggestions for improving the conference in the future, such as increasing the number of site representatives at the internship fair and strengthening ISTSS' international presence, each of the students we interviewed said they were pleased with the meeting.

For example, Brian Isakson, a clinical psychology intern at University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, said he enjoyed the broad range of topics addressed at the meeting.

Omar Reda, a resident physician at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, said he came to this year’s annual meeting because of the Society’s reputation and is leaving with “friends, connections, new ideas, and inspirations to direct [his] future steps.” He said, “Everyone at the conference was friendly and welcoming. I left with tons of materials, resources, and new ideas. I would definitely recommend the ISTSS meeting to other students, as it is a golden opportunity to meet with and learn from the pioneers in the field.”