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President's Message

Eric Bui, MD, PhD

May 27, 2021

I am delighted to begin this column by highlighting the release on Earth Day of our ISTSS Briefing Paper on Global Climate Change and Trauma. This outstanding collective work describes how climate change increases the frequency and severity of traumatic events as well as associated posttraumatic mental health problems at the global level. Although this should be obvious, this paper serves as a good reminder that mitigating the effects of global climate change should be central to our mission as clinicians and researchers in general (Roberts & Godlee, 2007), and all the more as clinicians and researchers focused on traumatic stress in particular.
ISTSS has already taken important steps to reduce global warming by recently diverting its investments to environmentally and socially responsible funds. Further, as I suggested in my January message, although challenging, the current global pandemic is also a window of opportunity to address global issues. International medical and scientific conferences produce large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions with, for example, each conference attendee contributing to the emission of approximately 1.2 to 1.8 metric tons of CO2 (Bousema et al. 2020; Wortzel et al. 2021). Hosting a virtual conference instead of an in-person one can reduce CO2 emissions to virtually nothing (Burtscher et al., 2020). By pivoting to a virtual annual meeting in 2020, ISTSS prevented the emission of at least 1,400 metric tons of CO2, roughly the equivalent of the yearly CO2 emissions of 100 Americans, 300 French people, 1,400 Hondurans, or 28,000 Somalians (Friedlingstein et al., 2019).
This year’s annual meeting will likely result in similar reductions in carbon emissions, however we need to look ahead to more sustainable changes in the long run. Though the global COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully be resolved (at least partially) in the near future, mitigating the impact of global climate change will require continued efforts in the decades to come. Because going from one extreme (all in-person meetings) to the other (all virtual meetings) is rarely the solution, and because in-person social interactions are critical for our well-being, a new model of “slow conferencing” might need to be invented. Recognizing this challenge and the rapidly evolving landscape in travel and scientific meetings worldwide, the Board of Directors has recently approved the creation of an ISTSS Meetings of the Future Task Force, chaired by Dr. Nicole Nugent and charged to consider how future ISTSS Annual Meetings (and Global Meetings) can be planned and implemented. Work from this task force will be especially critical to plan the 2022 Annual Meeting, which may take a hybrid format.
I would like to close this message by circling back to the ISTSS Briefing Paper on Global Climate Change and Trauma. In support of our Strategic Goal #3 (Global Impact), the abstract of this paper has been released in many languages including: Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Romanian and Spanish. This effort, spearheaded by ISTSS Board Member Dr. Misari Oe, is part of a larger Strategic Translation Plan currently underway and for which a survey has just been released to more accurately evaluate our translation needs as a Society. The survey is here, and I would very much appreciate your input to best determine your needs and the needs of those benefiting from the outstanding work our Society produces.


Bousema, T., Selvaraj, P., Djimde, A. A., Yakar, D., Hagedorn, B., Pratt, A., ... & Cohen, J. M. (2020). Reducing the carbon footprint of academic conferences: the example of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 103(5), 1758-1761.
Burtscher, L., Barret, D., Borkar, A. P., Grinberg, V., Jahnke, K., Kendrew, S., ... & McCaughrean, M. J. (2020). The carbon footprint of large astronomy meetings. Nature Astronomy, 4(9), 823-825.
Friedlingstein, P., Jones, M. W., O'sullivan, M., Andrew, R. M., Hauck, J., Peters, G. P., ... & Zaehle, S. (2019). Global carbon budget 2019. Earth System Science Data, 11(4), 1783-1838.
Roberts, I., & Godlee, F. (2007). Reducing the carbon footprint of medical conferences. Doctors must lead by example. BMJ 2007;334:324-5. doi: 10.1136/bmj.39125.468171.80
Wortzel, J. R., Stashevsky, A., Wortzel, J. D., Mark, B., Lewis, J., & Haase, E. (2021). Estimation of the carbon footprint associated with attendees of the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting. JAMA Network Open, 4(1), e2035641-e2035641.