Eric Bui, MD, PhD
April 1, 2021
As I was reading Dr. Debra Kaysen’s March 2020 President’s Message to find inspiration, it became quickly evident that what she wrote last year still rings true today, one full year later: “We are in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic that has upended most of our lives in ways that six [18, now] months ago would have been impossible to fathom.” However, while many things have remained the same, others have also significantly changed over the past year. I would therefore like to start this March 2021 message by amending Dr. Kaysen’s message and reminding us all that “we are in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic that has [taught us how to solve problems in creative and ingenious ways that 12] months ago would have been impossible to fathom.”
It is hard, but every day we are finding new creative ways to push forward. Some of us have learned how to effectively balance work and family demands, some of us have mastered how to deliver services and classes using novel technologies, some of us have created new workflows to enroll research subjects and conduct clinical trials all without a single in-person encounter, some of us have found new meaning in supporting others impacted by this pandemic, and some of us have successfully hosted a virtual international conference.
As we indicated previously, in light of the ongoing pandemic, the Board of Directors have thus decided to build on all the experience gained organizing the 2020 ISTSS Annual Meeting to hold our 37th Annual Meeting virtually, November 2–5, with the PMIs taking place November 1. The theme is “Trauma in Context: Moving Beyond the Individual,” and our keynote speakers will be Dr. Thema Bryant Davis, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, who will speak on the cultural context of recovery from racial and interpersonal trauma, and Dr. Pim Cuijpers, professor of clinical psychology at the Vrije Universities Amsterdam and director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Dissemination of Psychological Interventions, who will speak about meta-analytic effectiveness of psychological interventions for refugee and asylum seekers. Invited talks will also focus on timely issues in our field such as global disease epidemics (Dr. Soraya Seedat), trauma related to climate change (Drs. Christy Denkla and Jura Augustinavicius), historical trauma in indigenous communities (Dr. Joe Gone), intersectionality of microaggressions related to racial and sexual minorities (Dr. Kevin Nadal), and traumatic grief (Dr. Kathy Shear).
Our Annual Meeting Committee has been working tirelessly to integrate the thoughtful feedback many of you have kindly provided to make this upcoming meeting an even better one than last year! We will gather virtually as a community to advance science and clinical practice, with times for informal conversations and to connect/reconnect, and registration will be at a lower cost than for an in-person meeting. Many of you previously indicated that the different time zones made it difficult to attend all presentations, and similarly to last year we will make meeting content available for an extended period after the meeting. In addition, I am glad to let you know that we are working to partner with our ISTSS affiliate societies to host annual meeting sessions during European/African and Asian/Australasian time zones. I strongly believe that our first-of-its-kind ISTSS Global 24-hour Relay Event is an innovative way (Strategic Goal #4, Promoting Innovation) to support a global impact (Strategic Goal #3, Global Impact) and engage a more diverse international membership (Strategic Goal #2, Diverse and Engaged Organization).
Once again acknowledging that these are difficult times we live in, such innovations developed to face the challenge of organizing an international conference during times of travel restrictions are preparing us well for making the ISTSS a more global, but also a more ecologically sustainable, organization in the future. To quote an old Bene Gesserit axiom, “The mind can go either direction under stress—toward positive or toward negative: on or off. […] The way the mind will lean under stress is strongly influenced by training.” So, let’s train our mind to lean towards the positive during these stressful times, and make the most of it!