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This past fall, more than 1,000 people from all facets of the trauma field attended the ISTSS 19th Annual Meeting. The Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago provided a grand setting for attendees who traveled from 27 countries and throughout the United States to attend this highly anticipated four-day event, which featured an array of riveting topics that united the international world of trauma studies.

The October 29-November 1 meeting provided a place for learning, sharing and camaraderie. Attendees commented on the international flavor of the many presentations; the wealth of hands-on clinical education and dialogue provided in master therapist, clinical consultation, workshop and premeeting sessions by a number of skilled trauma clinicians; and the cutting-edge updates on scientific developments in neurobiology, developmental psychopathology, early intervention and clinical trials.

The meeting began with a full day of Pre-Meeting Institutes--the PMIs continued the next day until noon. These full-day and half-day institutes provided valuable specialized training for clinicians and researchers, featuring topics such as assessing children and adults exposed to terrorism and disaster, rebuilding fragmented lives, treating childhood traumatic grief, emerging practices in early posttrauma intervention, and much more.

A premeeting miniconference, "Turning Trauma and Recovery into Art: Creative Languages of Injury and Resiliency" on Wednesday explored trauma through humanities and the arts, including literature, poetry and photography, with presentations by leading writers and artists. The event, co-sponsored by the Dart Center and the International Center on Responses to Catastrophes, was well attended and enthusiastically received.

The annual meeting presented six plenaries. The opening plenary featured Laura Prescott from Sister Witness International Inc. In a first-person account, Prescott described physical and sexual abuse in the lives of women internationally, illustrating the need for trauma-sensitive, client-directed approaches. "Laura Prescott was inspiring-she helped move us to a deeper level and set a tone of compassion and truth that made the meeting very meaningful," one attendee commented about the plenary.

The days were packed with educational sessions, poster sessions, workshops, master clinician sessions, case studies, and media presentations. Participants also had a chance to relax, socialize and network at several receptions and coffee breaks. Sixteen Special Interest Groups, which continue to grow in members, held meetings and endorsed several sessions and PMIs. The Spirituality and Trauma SIG once again sponsored the Quiet Reflection Room, which provided conference attendees a quiet and inviting space to reflect upon their thoughts.

Closing the meeting's sessions, Ellert Nijenhuis, in the final plenary, discussed how the mind and body respond to overwhelming threat, reporting crucial findings of innovative neuroimaging and psychophysiological studies of chronically traumatized and dissociative individuals.

Following the closing plenary, attendees gathered for refreshments at the poster and exhibit open house before the next event, the Gala Awards Ceremony, where then-president Onno van der Hart and 2003 conference chair Julian Ford introduced those who were honored for achievements made in the field of traumatic stress studies. Held in the hotel's grand ballroom, this inspiring event took place before a packed audience. (See awards article for details.) Immediately following the awards ceremony, conference attendees and presenters joined together for an evening of refreshments and entertainment while they listened and danced to live entertainment provided by Lurrie Bell, Chicago blues guitarist, and his band.

Meeting evaluations showed overwhelmingly positive marks that reflected the hundreds of top-notch oral and poster presentations. "The poignant voices of people who are recovering from horrible trauma and the drumming exercise in the plenary hosted by Jim Munroe and Merle Friedman was the best presentation I've seen at any meeting," one attendee said. "The symposium and panel on the trauma of prostitution and human trafficking chaired by Melissa Farley has to be a plenary in the future," another said. Conference chair Julian Ford summed up the event by saying, "The meeting was enlightening and inspiring thanks to the uplifting presentations and the dedicated attendees from all over the world."

The 2004 conference chairs, Josef Ruzek and Patricia Watson, are already hard at work to make the 20th annual meeting another great success. Mark your calendars now, and plan to be in New Orleans Nov. 14-17, 2004, for the ISTSS 20th Annual Meeting.

ISTSS thanks supporters of the 2003 meeting: Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA; National Institute on Drug Abuse; Pfizer Pharmaceuticals; Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals; and Janssen Pharmaceutica.

Presentations: Stats at a Glance
Pre-Meeting Institutes
Plenary Sessions
Expert Clinical Consultations
Master Clinician Sessions
Case Presentations
Symposia, with 314 total presentations
Media Presentations