Finding Polestars in a Time of Crisis

By S. Bryn Austin posted 31 Mar, 2020 16:30


Since the time my blogpost was first published, Virtual ICED 2020 has been officially announced and registration is now open. Join us! Virtual ICED 2020 will take place June 11 - 30, and will offer a spectacular array of clinical and research programming and networking opportunities, just like you’ve come to expect from our annual conference. And a plus of the virtual platform is that it will make ICED 2020 more accessible and more affordable too – don’t miss out on early bird registration rates by May 15th . Click here to register now!

We are living in extraordinary times. Novelty, uncertainty, lack of control, threat: An experience with any one of these four elements can be stressful. Yet with breathtaking speed and ferocity, the coronavirus pandemic has swept us into its maelstrom of all four with an intensity and brutality the world has never before seen.

With no end in sight to the pandemic, we are all in our own ways seeking guides to help us regain our balance, return to some feeling of normalcy. For me, when the vertigo of life in a pandemic clouds my thinking, I find myself returning to advice I received early on from a colleague who specializes in trauma and crisis recovery:

Balance your fear with compassion. Find ways to maintain connection.   

Her words have become my polestar.

Many Academy for Eating Disorders members are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis as mental health clinicians, with some also in other clinical fields, including medicine, dietetics, and healthcare services administration. For the rest of us who are researchers and educators, like myself, though not working in care delivery, we are still deeply affected by the coronavirus crisis, likely in ways that we won’t be fully aware of for months or maybe years.

Day after day, week after week, the news is dominated -- and rightly so -- by the worsening crises in delivering medical care and the epidemiologic projections of transmission, containment, and mitigation. But what strikes me, and I’m sure many of you too as mental health professionals, is how with every new headline, the psychological consequences of the coronavirus crisis come into sharper and sharper focus. A New York Times op-ed by Dr. Daniela Lamas, a critical care doctor at a hospital in Boston, lays bare the harsh reality of what social distancing precautions mean in the critical care world, where families are no longer allowed to enter hospital rooms. Unable to offer a hand to hold, a soothing whisper for comfort, a loving embrace, families must let their loved ones die alone. For these families and for all our communities, who will be among those on the front lines offering the salve of human compassion for those left behind? Our members.

Mission is core for the AED leadership. Our number one responsibility is to serve you, our members, to help enable you to do the vital life-saving work you do day in and day out – and especially now. As a global professional society, we provide a community and platform to exchange new knowledge and integrate collective expertise on eating disorders. We foster relationships around the world to advance research and treatment access while nurturing the next generation of eating disorders professionals, all while building the capacity and sustainability of AED as a community. We know how to do this in ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times. Once the scale of the novel coronavirus threat became clear, we realized we must be nimble in carrying out our mission in ways that are responsive to our new reality. But how?

In search of answers, I turned back to my polestar: How do we as a community help each other balance our fear with compassion? How do we as a community find ways to maintain connection?  

The answer emerged with unexpected clarity: ICED 2020 must survive. With virtual ICED 2020, retooled and reformatted for digital delivery in the June timeframe, we can make good on our commitment to preserve the exceptional content that the dedicated volunteers on the ICED Scientific Program Planning Committee and hundreds of presenters have prepared. But we can do more now that ICED will be in digital format. We will be able to make the brilliant array of trailblazing research findings and evidence-based clinical innovations easily available through our website throughout the year, not just during the few days of our typical in-person conference. We will also have the capacity to share the conference experience with far more people from around the world than would have been able to spare the time or shoulder the expense of traveling to Sydney this year.

Our annual conference is the single most important event each year for our community, the place where we exchange knowledge, learn in dialogue, share stories and encouragement, offer and receive mentorship, and make lifetime friends and collaborators within the increasingly diverse world that makes up our AED membership. With virtual ICED 2020, we can ensure that all our members – from the most senior AED Fellows to the newest trainees and next generation of eating disorders professionals -- enjoy the camaraderie and connection of ICED when we all need it most. Through the wider access that virtual ICED 2020 allows, we can share our passion and the best of our research and clinical care with new colleagues who will be able to tap into our vibrant AED community for the first time.

Join us! An announcement with details for our inaugural Virtual ICED 2020 will be released within the coming days. Also, we’ve heard from many of you that you are looking for ways you can help others in our community, perhaps a trainee or colleague facing special financial hardship now or colleagues from areas of the world not usually represented at ICED.

Once registration opens you will see that we have added a link where, with a modest donation, you can help others in need register to join us for virtual ICED 2020.

Now, in this time of global crisis, we need each other more than any of us could have ever imagined. With virtual ICED 2020, we will rally our collective talents and resources, coming together as a community to inspire and educate, to share in our common experience. With compassion and connection as our polestars, we will get through this crisis a stronger organization and community. You know where you can find me in June.
ICED 2020 No Dates