Debra L. Kaysen, PhD, ABPP
September 24, 2020
As we approach the annual meeting, it provides us all with an opportunity reflect on the role of our community and annual meeting. This year demonstrates the importance of organizations like ISTSS and the importance of our clinical and scientific community. The problems we are addressing are global in scale and need the collective wisdom of us all—from each of our perspectives, disciplines and lived experiences to create change.
I am saddened to not see so many of you, as we had planned, in Atlanta but I am excited to see our virtual conference come together. This year’s meeting theme of Bridging Science and Practice to Reach Underserved Communities: Barriers, Opportunities and Innovation is highly relevant to the 2020 context of a pandemic where the worst effects are being experienced by communities of color, increased global movements around social justice, and increased awareness of the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities. This is why having speakers such as Connie Walker, who will talk about the impact of trauma on Native American and First Nation women; Pamela Collins, who will speak to issues around equity in global mental health; and John Rich, who will be speaking about issues around racial trauma, is so critical. Given our current challenges of wildfires, hurricanes and pandemics, panel discussions on early interventions, on the use of digital technologies and on responding to public health emergencies are all clinically and topically relevant.
To meet these challenges we also have to push ourselves as a field to innovate and improve, and we have speakers who can help us learn new methodologies such as Billie Nahum-Shani, who will talk about adaptive and just-in-time intervention approaches, and Ananda Amstadter, who will present on innovations in statistical genetics. This is just a sampling of the exciting program our chairs have pulled together for our 2020 annual meeting! It will also be the only year at ISTSS where we each have a chance to see all the content we want, even with events that are double-booked, as the meeting content will be available online for a year.
One challenge we faced was how to also have opportunities for thoughtful discussion, to digest these talks, and to network and connect as a community. Our meeting chairs have developed several venues to allow for us to come together, albeit in a virtual space. This includes our traditional SIG meetings, as well as networking sessions around critical topics, separate question-and-answer time with invited speakers, and time for creating global collaborations focused on specific regions and led by our Global Ambassadors. Our student SIG leaders have made sure that there are ample opportunities for our students to network and to connect with mentors and potential training opportunities. There will even be a Q&A with me as President, if any of you are inclined to drop by. I do hope to see you all at these events!
This year has forced many of us to dig deep, to lean on one another, and to embrace novel and innovative solutions. This meeting has been a labor of love on the part of the Annual Meeting Organizing Committee (Rachel Hiller and Emily Dworkin) and the Scientific Program Committee (Michele Bedard-Gilligan and Rachel Liebman) as each part of the annual meeting has had to be reconceptualized to translate it to a virtual format. ISTSS Executive Director Rick Koepke in particular has been incredible in keeping us all on track, despite so much general uncertainty.
All of these individuals, along with the Executive Committee, Board of Directors and ISTSS staff, have put in an extraordinary amount of effort this year to address unprecedented challenges. We could not have done it nearly as well without the contributions of these individuals and so many more. And for all of that and more, my deepest thanks. See you all in November!