In the upcoming newsletters we highlight some of ESTSS’ memorable moments. A fitting start is the memory of our first president and one of the founders, Wolter de Loos. With his background in endocrinology and psychiatry, working with military veterans, he recognized the mind-body connection ahead of his time. He remained a pioneer and an advocate for trauma research and care until his passing in 2004. Wolter’s name lives on in ESTSS’ award for distinguished contribution to the field of psychotraumatology, our highest honour. We asked Erica de Loos for her memories of her late father’s involvement in ESTSS.
You were a child at the time, what memories do you have of the start of ESTSS and your father’s involvement?
“Psychotraumatology and trauma were household terms during my childhood. It was only later that it occurred to me that trauma had actually not been common knowledge in those days and that it was not for years that there was any public recognition for people with traumatic experiences.
ESTSS was part of my father’s and our family life. People from the society would visit, sometimes stay with us. I would talk to them on the phone, leaving messages for my father if he wasn’t around. As a family, we often accompanied my father to conferences or work visits. On holiday in France, I remember he would slip into a venue to check its potential for hosting a conference. To me this was perfectly normal, just part of my childhood.
Later as a student I also assisted at one of the conferences. I think what stuck with me was having an international perspective. Life does not stop at the border. Working together across nations, learning from each other is essential to improving. Also in my current line of work, as policy advisor for quality and organization in hospitals, looking over the border and beyond our own systems has been very important.”
Can you tell us something about your father’s motives for starting ESTSS?
“What characterized him was having a strong vision and his love for pioneering. He was schooled in internal medicine, but was looking for challenges. Ways to build something, to expand his field of interest. It wasn’t easy to get people to see the importance of traumatic stress, but it did create an international drive for the field. This was a group of people who shared the same ideas and struggles. I think that struggle also helped them, or maybe pushed them, to join forces and become a community.”
What is your perspective on the development of ESTSS as a society, what would be future focus points?
“The change in public opinion about trauma over the past decades has been huge. There is more social acceptance when it comes to trauma, we know so much more about ways to treat trauma. What would fit ESTSS as a society, at the forefront of the trauma field, is being inclusive to the survivor’s or patient perspective. In my own line of work, hospital care quality improvement, patients are part of the team. Their views are pivotal in making care processes better.”