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I'm writing this inaugural issue of my President's Message on a cold, snowy night in New Hampshire, where we actually look forward to snow (at least some of the time). The quiet outside provides a perfect time to reflect and catch up on work.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve as the society's president, and I look forward to working for members in the coming year. During the year, I have three specific goals I hope to accomplish. The first is to finalize policies and procedures with our affiliate societies, ensuring that our commitment of being an international society is reflected in everything we do. We need workable criteria for becoming an affiliate, and we need to provide meaningful benefits to members of affiliate societies. At the same time, we have to be responsive to the needs of ISTSS members, most of whom reside in North America, while continuing to attract new members. A task force co-chaired by Erik de Soir and Danny Kaloupek will work on these and related issues.

Another goal is to refine the society's internal structure and functions to optimize resources. We're a volunteer organization of modest means. There's always more work than we can do, and we have limited funds to support our initiatives. We have to be efficient and spread the work around. The society has made great progress in the area of operations during the past few years, so my efforts will be part of a continuing trend.

My third goal for the year is to increase membership. The number of ISTSS members has not grown very much during the past several years despite the substantial increase of interest in trauma among professionals and laypersons around the world. For example, in the past five years, the annualized rate of change has been only 2.3 percent. As you can see from the graph below, however, the number of members actually was declining until 2002, when 500 new members joined in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11. In 2003, the number of members declined 3.8 percent.

It's possible that the lack of growth may be attributed to the increased focus on trauma in other professional groups. Individuals who at one time found ISTSS to be one of few organizations devoted to trauma now have much more choice. So how do we compete? What do we offer that other groups don't?

I think our greatest strength is our diversity. Trauma is a complex problem that requires multidisciplinary responses in the form of treatment, education, policy and research. ISTSS, with its varied constituencies, provides a comprehensive framework for advancing science and practice in a way that no other organization specifically dedicated to a single topic or for a single professional group can. We fill a unique niche.

I feel enriched by members' varying interests because I get to learn so much about topics that I don't encounter every day. I'm grateful to be a part of something that extends my individual reach far beyond the scope of my own work. The diversity serves as a reminder of the enormous impact of trauma on individuals and society. When I focus primarily on issues relating to veterans, I do so from a broad perspective that I have gained through my connections with ISTSS members.

Growth is important. We need to preserve our vitality and secure the future of the organization by adding individuals who can contribute to our mission. The ISTSS leadership is continuing its efforts to increase membership, but there's something simple and concrete that every member can do to help: Recruit a new member during the coming year. Every current member must know at least one person who would be a welcome addition to our family. If even 10 percent of members are successful, we'll have grown at a rate greater than we've seen in past years. Please help us by telling others what we already know--that ISTSS is a special group of extraordinary people.