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Recently I had the opportunity to discuss student membership with Danny Kaloupek, PhD, deputy director of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System, a member of the ISTSS board of directors and a longtime advocate for students in ISTSS.

Kaloupek noted that more than 23 percent of attendees at the ISTSS 17th Annual Meeting were students. "The board of directors was very happy to see such a large turnout of students. This points to the necessity for the society to address the needs of students-to help them get the knowledge they need, guidance about career options and access to some of the leaders in the field," he said.

The society's interest in addressing student needs has translated into practical support for students. The most recent example is a task force that has been organized to work on student issues. Kaloupek identified some other ways that the society is supporting students:

  • Research Support Awards (two annual awards of $1,000 each)
  • Student members working on society committees
  • Student section message board on the ISTSS Web site
  • Space for students to meet during ISTSS annual conferences
  • Funding for the student representative to cover costs associated with attending the annual meeting

Kaloupek has initiated boardroom discussions about student issues and opportunities for student involvement. He has coordinated the Student Research Support Awards, which this year will be turned over formally to the Awards Committee. And he has served as a judge for the Student Poster Awards.

For students who would like to be more involved in ISTSS, there are some common challenges. Time, money and a feeling that they cannot influence the society are common reasons for a lack of student involvement according to Kaloupek. "ISTSS is a large organization that can seem distant from the everyday lives of students, and they may not be aware of what it can offer them. ISTSS is helping students to see professional opportunities...[the society] brings them into contact with the top people in traumatic stress. We continue to keep student registration costs for conferences quite low because we really want students to come and be involved in the society. It's important for them to get an early start and be involved in what it takes." Kaloupek thinks it's a good idea for students to meet with those who will be providing training, offering jobs and reviewing grants and papers.

Kaloupek encourages students to become actively involved in the society. It benefits ISTSS to have "young people coming through who are interested and invested in the workings of the society." For students, Kaloupek says that involvement can "help people to gain a broader focus in terms of their career--more than just academics and clinical training. ISTSS offers a terrific sampling of what the field has to offer."

For more information, contact Alethea Smith, contributing editor of the Student Section at alethea_smith@hotmail.com.