Reaching out across the globe to advance traumatic stress research and practice is a top goal that CHOP’s Nancy Kassam-Adams, PhD plans to accomplish as the new president of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS).
Traumatic stress occurs in significant numbers of children and parents after unintentional injuries such as concussions, interpersonal violence, and other difficult medical events, according to CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP).
Founded 29 years ago, ISTSS is an international, interdisciplinary professional organization that includes researchers, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and others with an interest in the study and treatment of traumatic stress. Dr. Kassam-Adams, associate director for behavioral research at the CIRP, has been an ISTSS member for more than 20 years.
“It has been incredibly valuable to me as a forum in which I hear about the latest work in the traumatic stress field from around the world and get to know other researchers, as well as clinicians who are working in this area,” Dr. Kassam-Adams said.
In her one-year term as ISTSS president, Dr. Kassam-Adams is working to advance the Society’s strategic goals by fostering mutual scientific exchange and engaging ISTSS’ broad international membership. She is excited about fostering a lively professional community online and in ISTSS meetings around the world. ISTSS recently hosted a conference in Norway, and in the next few months will be in Singapore, China, and Chile, among other places.
“I find the international and multidisciplinary nature of the society most exciting and stimulating,” Dr. Kassam-Adams said. “Many of the research collaborations I have developed, with colleagues in the U.S. and in several other countries, have grown from relationships that began via ISTSS.”
ISTSS Past President Karestan C. Koenen, PhD, described Dr. Kassam-Adams as having a “rare combination of passion, intelligence, and kindness. She will be successful because she will motivate ISTSS members through her passion to improve the lives of traumatized children, employ ISTSS resources intelligently, and listen to our members and make sure their views are represented.”
Dr. Koenen, associate professor and director of the Psychiatric-neurological Epidemiology cluster in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, added that Dr. Kassam-Adams’ willingness to take risks will help make the ISTSS a better organization. For example, she is instituting a Spanish track at the ISTSS Annual Meeting in November that will enable ISTSS to expand its reach to new attendees and allow greater interchange among researchers and clinicians in the U.S., Latin America, and Spain. The theme for the 2014 ISTSS Annual Meeting relates to trauma in childhood and its impact for children, adults, and communities.
CHOP research over the past several decades has been at the forefront of understanding the impact of pediatric medical events (illness and injury) for children and their families through the lens of traumatic stress. This includes the work of Anne Kazak, PhD, Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, Lamia Barakat, PhD, Meghan Marsac, PhD, and many others.
“Our research at CHOP has shown that the traumatic stress framework holds up empirically, and that it also makes sense to families,” Dr. Kassam-Adams said. “We recognize children’s and families’ competence and strengths as they face really challenging and sometimes traumatic experiences.”
Dr. Kassam-Adams has completed several large prospective studies of traumatic stress in children and youth in medical settings. With colleagues at CHOP, she developed innovative web-based tools for parents that promote secondary prevention of traumatic stress in ill or injured children.
“I see my involvement and leadership roles in ISTSS as mutually beneficial for ongoing CHOP research in this area, helping to tie us in with the larger field of traumatic stress and promoting mutual exchange of ideas with colleagues around the world who are doing very interesting work in related areas,” Dr. Kassam-Adams said.
Dr. Kassam-Adams also co-directs the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress, an intervention development center that is part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. She served on the American Psychological Association’s 2008 Presidential Task Force on Child Trauma.