What a difference a year makes

We are still catching our breath, and the dust will not settle for weeks to come. This past weekend, on May 29, we completed the four days of live streaming of the 32nd Annual International Boston Trauma Conference. We started with two days of concurrent tracks of pre-conference workshops, went through two full days of in-depth research and clinical keynote presentations, and ended with a live Quaker Meeting in a zoom room of participants from around the world. 

It was our second VIRTUAL International Trauma Conference. The first virtual conference was held last year, when our traditionally live conference was cancelled. Last year, amidst all the uncertainty of the emerging pandemic, the partners that traditionally have supported us were not able to be part of the conference. And we scrambled with a heroic makeshift team that made the conference an astounding success, with over six times the attendance we had previously reached. This success changed who we are as an organization, who we understand we can extend our reach to, and what we understand we can do in the world. Through the rest of the year and into this year, we have built upon that success to become a full online presence with our Therapeutic Alliance allies around the world. Hence, over 4,200 people joined us this year.

The Trauma Research Foundation is comprised of a stalwart team of extraordinary people who have been working together to make all our programming happen since the 2020 virtual conference. They are dedicated, smart, creative, resourceful, energetic, generous, and kind. They embody the mission and values of our organization. They are the drive and collective energy that makes our ideals manifest. Each person on the team is essential, and we could not do what we do or provide what we provide without them. The miracle is that though we meet and work closely together daily, week to week, month to month, we have yet to meet in person. We will be introducing each team member more fully in the weeks to come, and name the many essential things they do, but for now, I want to acknowledge our team by name: 

Alexandra Van Derlyke—Programming Manager
Pat Murray—Media Manager 
Laura Walsh—Communications Manager 
Araminta Jonson—Marketing Director
Susan Lagos—  CFO
Tammy Cassidy—Financial Manager

On our Trauma Conference sponsor/partner side, I want to acknowledge our bright star from the Meadows, Carrie Steffensen, who pre-pandemic, for over 15 years, has been the coordinating engine behind our in-person conferences. This year, Carrie rejoined our efforts, and was again a major player in shepherding the CE process and scheduling for presenters.

And Zachary Taylor from PESI and the Psychotherapy Networker, who with a smooth, serene style, managed the CVent platform that we used for this year’s conference, and oversaw the myriad octopi of CE requirements for each presentation.  

I also want to acknowledge the leadership, presence, heart, and vision of the person who has been at the helm of the International Trauma Conference for 32 years, and the Trauma Research Foundation since the very beginning, Bessel van der Kolk. For over four decades, his curiosity, zeal, and passion, championing the research and clinical needs of people who have experienced trauma, have been at the core of the revolution in understanding and healing trauma. The distillation of his wealth and breadth of knowledge in The Body Keeps The Score has reached and helped millions. We are inspired, energized, and heartened to help carry his vision forward.


In closing, I also want to reflect a bit on my own experience coming to leadership at the Trauma Research Foundation. I have gone from a co-founder hoping to find the right leader for our operation to, by default, being that leader. From being an intuitive artist, singer-songwriter, bodyworker, to meeter, connector, planner, envisioner, scoper of opportunities, chief collaborator and embodied dreamer for TRF. 

As I grow into this role, I recognize the responsibility and privilege of my position. My identity, socially, politically, racially and gendered, has a new weight and insistence that I feel obligated to address. Representation matters. At this writing, I am the only person of color in my organization. The issues of social justice and racial trauma have been real and deeply important for me every day of my life. I am committed to seeing these issues, with all their wide-reaching implications, integrated into the fabric of research, outreach, and programming for the Trauma Research Foundation. I am gratified at how the content of this year’s conference covered multiple perspectives from around the world, representing and addressing the needs of many identities of people around the world, and closer to home, how we are finally beginning to address the racialized trauma here in the United States. I see this year as the continued planting of seeds. This is a project, a garden, an orchard that I am committed to see grow.

In love, courage, and compassion,

Licia Sky, CEO of the Trauma Research Foundation

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