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As I write this column, it is difficult for me to realize that this is my last message as ISTSS president. First I want to acknowledge that in serving ISTSS, I have worked with an excellent and dedicated Executive Committee: John Briere, Mary Ann Dutton, Laurie Pearlman, Paula Schnurr, Stuart Turner and, as ex-officio member, Elana Newman. The strong commitment of many members actively engaged on the board of directors and on various committees and task forces continues to make ISTSS a society of which we all can be proud. It has been a delight for me to collaborate closely with Julian Ford, this year's program chair. Under his wise leadership, the Program Committee has done an outstanding job. Last but not least, Rick Koepke, ISTSS's executive director, and other staff members have been most helpful. To all of them I express a heartfelt "thank you!"

Paula Schnurr soon will take over as ISTSS president, and I wish her and the new Executive Committee all the best. I anticipate that they will do a tremendous job in steering a smooth course for the society. I hope that they can count on the commitment, dedication and support of each member. One of my greatest experiences as president has been the input I received from individual members who expressed their concern about various issues and who were dedicated to taking actions that make a difference for ISTSS and the trauma field.

The society faces many challenges. In my previous president's message I promised to return to strategic planning, the process of prioritizing and planning our long-term goals. As you might recall, I mentioned the great accomplishments made since the first strategic-planning board meeting on May 24, 2001, and I said that I would present a brief, current state of affairs based on an extensive evaluation made by the board at the annual midyear meeting in Berlin, Germany. Now I must admit that much work still needs to be accomplished in various areas.

A great deal of housecleaning has taken place in the domain of fiscal resources. The Finance Committee has largely accomplished the first strategic goal of establishing financial policies needed to create and maintain a healthy financial record for ISTSS. The second goal relates to effective fundraising, a major challenge in the present economy where contributions to nonprofit organizations are down more than 30 percent. Many future ISTSS accomplishments depend on fundraising success. One step toward this goal involves the development of a more effective working relationship with the Trauma Foundation.

Major efforts are needed to increase ISTSS membership, which has not grown even though interest in trauma has grown exponentially (especially since 9/11). The Membership Committee is in the process of developing methods of attracting new members (e.g., personal appeal to prospective members from current members). Strategies are being planned to increase diversity and to make membership more accessible for professionals from countries with customarily low incomes. Much effort has been made in developing and maintaining appropriate policies and procedures to ensure the stability and efficiency of the society's structure. The number of ISTSS Special Interest Groups continues to increase.

In the area of programs, products and services, many of the initial objectives outlined in strategic planning have been completed or are under way--for instance, updates to the society's Web site, formalization of ethical standards, international training guidelines, and the UN book on the effects of and responses to cultural group violence and trauma. However, ongoing assessment of the needs of members as well as development of new services and products should receive higher priority.

Finally, we have accomplished a good deal in regards to advocacy in the traumatic stress field. For example, we have contributed to the development of a United Nations statement on trafficking of girls and women. However, there is a strong need to develop new approaches or to improve existing ones for more effective outreach to the general public and to policy-making bodies. In particular, we need to set up a quick-response media group that can respond in a timely manner to emerging relevant issues.

Much of our strategic planning is concentrated on the core of ISTSS--its heart and soul--and is formulated in the society's mission statement: "The ISTSS is an international, multidisciplinary, professional organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about severe stress and trauma...." Who should be involved? My vision of the society's composition includes:

  • Top scientists, both in traumatic stress and related domains such as epidemiology and the neurosciences
  • Clinicians in the trenches who treat trauma victims on a daily basis
  • Those who make contributions in economically disadvantaged regions of the world--regions where trauma often is ubiquitous
  • Those who do not necessarily speak or read English

What does ISTSS need to do to include all of the above? What steps must be taken to include and foster collaboration among these parties and to make the benefits of membership in the society available, even to those from less prosperous countries? How can we foster more and better collegial relationships and collaboration among researchers, other scientists and clinicians, and both developed and less advantaged countries?

In short, we need to integrate more. It is important to include a variety of people in the society, and to do so, an internal international structure that allows for more prosperous members to support less prosperous members must be created. I believe that each one of us can help by being involved in at least one international project. This involvement might be in formal research and training programs-or at an informal, small-scale level. If we don't have financial means to share, we always have our knowledge, skills, experiences and compassion to offer. Remember: In participating, reciprocity is the key. We all have something to give and to gain from one another. I believe that this is what the society's heart and soul is about.