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The 2020 annual meeting was the unofficial start of three new ISTSS Special Interest Groups—the Trauma in Higher Education and Training SIG, the Postpartum Trauma SIG, and the Trauma and Justice SIG. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are self-selected networking hubs of ISTSS members that center on specific survivor groups or specific topics within the field of traumatic stress studies. Each of the three new SIGs represents novel aspects of trauma exposure as well as the expansion of professions within ISTSS. Although each of these SIGs has been in existence for less than a year, members have shown great interest, with current memberships consisting of 15 to 45 ISTSS members. These three groups along with 21 other groups held SIG meetings during the annual meeting, often in the early morning hours and for some before sunrise.

The Trauma in Higher Education and Training SIG met on November 12, 2020, under the leadership of Chairs Dr. Bianca Harper and Dr. Stephen DiDonato. Prior to the meeting a survey was distributed to approximately 40 members of this newly formed special interest group. The survey information along with the interests of those who attended the meeting were the basis for a productive discussion of potential SIG projects. Two potential projects were prioritized: 1) developing foundational trauma curriculum that can be integrated across disciplines and service sectors, and 2) developing faculty guides to address multifaceted student issues associated with COVID-19. These projects are strongly aligned with the primary goal of the Trauma in Higher Education and Training SIG, which is to advance the pedagogical science of infusing trauma-informed education into higher education programs and professional training programs. The SIG chairs invite ISTSS members with similar interests to join. We are also interested in identifying one or two student co-chairs.

The Postpartum Trauma Special Interest Group convened their first meeting on November 11, 2020, with SIG Chairs Dr. Sharon Dekel and Dr. Anke Witteveen, and Student Co-Chair Gabriella Dishy. Those in attendance discussed the current state of research on PTSD following childbirth and the need for advancement in clinical and biologically oriented research to guide the development of effective treatments.

The mission of the Postpartum Trauma SIG is to raise scientific and clinical attention to conditions of childbirth-related traumatic stress and the adverse impact on mother and child health. Although childbirth is often thought of as a uniformly happy event, a significant portion of women in both developing and developed countries experience life-threatening events surrounding parturition that can seriously endanger maternal well-being. Minoritized racial and ethnic groups are at heightened risk of maternal morbidity in delivery (Callaghan et al., 2008) and experiencing traumatic stress evoked by childbirth (Dekel, unpublished). As a community within ISTSS, the SIG will focus on diagnosis, treatment, prediction and biological mechanisms underlining peripartum traumatic stress as well intergenerational trauma transmission, with an emphasis on discoveries that can translate into improved clinical care. The Postpartum SIG will serve as a platform to stimulate productive international scientific collaboration among investigators and ensure the rapid dissemination of novel research findings. All members of ISTSS are invited to join the Postpartum Trauma SIG. SIG membership will allow for participation in upcoming professional gatherings.

Finally, the Trauma and Justice Special Interest Group, chaired by Dr. Maureen Allwood and Dr. Suzanne Best, met on Friday, November 6, 2020 and hosted 15 conference attendees. In attendance were students of clinical psychology and public health, and professionals representing an array of roles and sectors. This interdisciplinary group of researchers, clinicians, forensic evaluators, attorneys, social historians, policy makers and other professionals shared a common interest in the ways in which traumatic stress increases one’s risk of legal system involvement, and conversely how legal system involvement increases risk for trauma exposure. 

The Trauma and Justice SIG meeting attendees were inspired by the diversity, depth and global perspectives of the newly formed membership. A number of ideas for the development of informational factsheets, pre-meeting institutes and other conference programming were shared at the meeting. The SIG members are invested in disseminating information regarding the nature and impact of traumatic stress as it relates to legal systems and associated professionals. Moreover, the SIG is committed to promoting global engagement as it pertains to identity, economic and disability disparities that are endemic within legal systems. The Trauma and Justice SIG encourages all ISTSS members interested in the intersection of traumatic stress studies and legal systems to join this newly formed special interest group.  We are looking forward to the sharing of interests and expertise in juvenile justice, criminal justice, child welfare and social services, and immigration systems, as well as other areas of traumatic stress studies associated with the legal systems.

Given the expansive and diverse nature of the ISTSS membership, Special Interest Groups provide an opportunity to share and collaborate in smaller focused networks of individuals with similar interests. As chairs of these three new SIGs, we encourage all ISTSS members to explore the 27 SIG options and consider joining the one or more groups that best fit your specialization and areas of interest

How to Join These SIGs

  1. Log in and go to your ISTSS member profile.
  2. Go to the SIG Choices tab and check the boxes next the SIGs you want to join.
  3. Scroll down and click “save.”


Callaghan WM, Mackay AP, Berg CJ. Identification of severe maternal morbidity during delivery hospitalizations, United States, 1991-2003. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2008. Aug;199(2):133.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.12.020
Dekel S. Posttraumatic stress in relation to childbirth and minority status: A national study of postpartum women during COVID-19 pandemic (unpublished work).