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I write my first presidential column immediately following the ISTSS 20th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, so I am so energized by the successful meeting. We owe a great debt of thanks to Paula Schnurr, 2004 president; Joe Ruzek and Patricia Watson, 2004 meeting co-chairs; and Paula’s executive committee, Ulrich (Ueli) Schnyder, Stuart Turner, Onno van der Hart and Mary Ann Dutton.

Also I’d like to acknowledge headquarters staff, a less visible group who puts into action everything we do—in particular, Rick Koepke, executive director; Diane Rutherford, administrative director; Marti Buckely, member services coordinator; Liz Freyn, conference manager; Nicki Patti, education manager; and Mary Novak, headquarters editor.

I want to welcome and thank my executive committee: Edna Foa, vice president; Elana Newman, secretary; Stuart Turner, treasurer; Paula Schnurr, past president; Dean Kilpatrick, president-elect; and the 2005 annual meeting co-chairs Norah Feeny and Lori Zoellner. The society is strong, vibrant and well positioned to make a difference, and with such competent people in leadership, I look forward to furthering the organization’s purpose in the upcoming year.

I am excited about my term as ISTSS president. I want to honor the society, the field, the legacy of distinguished past presidents, and each individual member. I invite comments from every member regarding ideas for ISTSS to consider or ways in which the society might serve you better. I can be reached by e-mail at brothba@emory.edu.

ISTSS is not the largest organization I belong to, but I consider it to be the most special. Its members are unique. Not everyone can do what we do. We know the pain of life’s worst moments—most of which should never have happened, many caused by people we thought were incapable of inflicting such pain. We are not naïve. We can’t live in complacency or denial. At times, I have felt as if I held someone’s broken heart in my hands, the pain in the room was so palpable. Most of you have had similar experiences. But with the knowledge of pain comes knowledge of strength. I believe in instincts. I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit. I have seen people and places devastated by trauma and wondered how they ever would recover. But they did recover.

With the special knowledge that we possess, I think it is our responsibility to spread the word. The theme of my presidency is one of dissemination. We work in many different areas: as policymakers, researchers, clinicians, journalists, educators, and frontline disaster first responders, with everything in between and on the edges. We can make a difference. However, dissemination is a challenge. I feel much more confident about my plan for treating an individual patient or proposing a treatment study rather than a plan for dissemination. We had a panel discussion about dissemination at the annual meeting in New Orleans, and I think it raised more questions than answers.

Some of the challenges that we identified include:

  • Logistics: How do we get the word out?
  • What form should dissemination take—books and articles, Internet and DVDs, training workshops? What about reaching people in remote areas who do not have computer access?
  • How do we get people to change their current practices—to change their intervention practices? How do we increase the motivation and commitment to change?
  • How do we make certain that people implement information correctly once they are committed to learning something new? Training needs to be comprehensive, extensive and interactive. Often there needs to be a period for supervision and compliance checks to ensure correct implementation in the real world.

How can we accomplish this on a large scale? One method of increasing motivation for change in professionals or paraprofessionals is to increase the demand for new or updated services. A way to increase the demand is by educating consumers—the public. This presents another huge challenge in educating the public about reactions to trauma, and interventions to attenuate these reactions and prevent chronic disturbances. Again, I encourage you to contact me with ideas about how to approach dissemination issues.

As you can see, we have challenges ahead. But we have energy, commitment and expertise, so I am optimistic. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve as ISTSS president.