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President's Message

Ananda Amstadter, PhD, ISTSS President

January 27, 2022

The New Year is a time marked by reflections of the past and hopes for the future. I am truly honored to serve as ISTSS President. I am humbled to stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before me to build and guide ISTSS into the premier traumatic stress organization that it is, one that so many of us call our professional home. As we soon begin the third year of the continued global pandemic, which has compounded other impactful forms of trauma (e.g., racial trauma, climate change, interpersonal violence) the importance and relevance of our field is clear. The grief, loss, and trauma experienced globally is substantial and affects us all on many levels both personally and professionally. Although I am not the first ISTSS President to be at the helm during the pandemic, I’ll note that when I accepted the nomination to serve in this role, I did not foresee that I would be writing this column while simultaneously wondering if my child’s school will close at any moment. Given the heaviness of the burden we are all carrying both personally and professionally during these challenging times, I have turned to art and literature to refresh my spirit and help renew my focus on the critical work ahead. In doing so, I was particularly struck by a line in Amanda Gorman’s brilliant and moving poem, The Hill We Climb: “Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew.” This sentiment captured for me the essence, the DNA if you will, of our beloved organization—the acknowledgement and validation of the pain and reverberating effects of trauma and the capacity for change, resilience, and growth.
 
In that same vein I share with you bittersweet news that brings with it feelings of grief, the need for acceptance of change, and optimism for growth opportunities for ISTSS. Mr. Rick Koepke who has served as ISTSS’ Executive Director for over two decades will be retiring at the end of March. A full tribute to Rick’s innumerous contributions to ISTSS is forthcoming as his impact on to ISTSS is far too great to expand upon here. The bitter part of this news is that it means our time with Rick’s involvement with ISTSS is coming to an end. I know I am in good company in expressing my excitement for this new chapter for Rick and appreciation for all of his wisdom and contributions. I also know that there is sorrow and sadness that our days of working together are drawing to an end. I have had the privilege of working closely with Rick for many years, and in addition to valuing his friendship, he has had an impactful influence on my work as a leader. I know the same can be said for all of the ISTSS members who had the honor of working closely with him. This is truly the end of an era for ISTSS.
 
But with endings come new beginnings. It is with great joy that I announce that Dr. Diane Elmore Borbon, former ISTSS President, will be taking the reins from Rick to serve as ISTSS’ Executive Director after his retirement. I had the honor of serving as Diane’s Vice President during her presidential term and I can say with certainty that I cannot imagine anyone better suited to carry on Rick’s legacy. Diane has been an ISTSS member for nearly 25 years and, in addition to President, has served the society in a variety of leadership roles, including Secretary, Executive Committee Member, Board Member, and Chair and Member of numerous Committees, Task Forces, and SIGs. She is also a prior recipient of the ISTSS Public Advocacy Award and the ISTSS Chaim Danieli Young Professional Award.
 
Over the last two decades, Diane’s work has focused on the translation and dissemination of scientific and clinical knowledge to policymakers, government leaders, and key decision makers on public health and trauma policy issues to address the needs of underserved and historically marginalized populations. She is a faculty member in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, DC, where she teaches and mentors experienced government agency officials in the Executive Leadership Program. She is also the project lead for a multiyear, multimillion dollar Duke University contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to implement a trauma-informed workforce development initiative for the ORR Unaccompanied Children Program.  
 
Most recently, she has served as the Washington, DC-based Policy Director for the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, the coordinating center for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Previously Diane held positions as Associate Executive Director of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Public Interest Government Relations Office; Director of the APA Congressional Fellowship Program; coordinator of APA activities related to military service members, veterans, and their families; and worked on health care and trauma issues in the United States Senate.
 
In addition to her staff positions, Diane has served in leadership roles for several other associations and organizations, including prior service on the NCTSN Advisory Board, the Board of Directors of the National Alliance for Caregiving (former Chair), and the Advisory Board for Voices of September 11th. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Center for the Study, Prevention, and Treatment of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma, is Chair of the Policy Committee for the APA Division 56: Trauma Psychology, and is an Associate Editor for Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
 
Diane earned her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Houston, MA and BA in Psychology from Pepperdine University, and MPH from Johns Hopkins University with a dual concentration in health policy and public health preparedness. She completed her predoctoral residency at the Honolulu Veterans Affairs Medical Center/National Center for PTSD, Pacific Islands Division. I know I am not alone in saying I am thrilled to welcome Diane into her new position and to begin our work together alongside the Board of Directors and other ISTSS workgroups as we plan the year ahead.
 
The future of ISTSS is bright; we have many exciting plans for the upcoming year, including our 38th Annual Meeting, “Trauma as a Transdiagnostic Risk Factor Across the Lifespan,” to be held in Atlanta, Georgia. What a reunion it will be to reconnect with friends and colleagues! Our Annual Meeting Organizing Committee, chaired by Drs. Sierra Carter and Jennifer Sumner, has been working hard to create an innovative program that will address the widespread health influences of trauma exposure over the life course. Our ability to connect as a global society ensures we all can learn from and support one another, which is so critical, now more than ever.