AUCD Trainees in the Field: 2013 IMFAR (Spain)

Aisha Dickerson (Texas) and Clare Tessman (Illinois), others in attendance

May 8, 2013

The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) was held this year in Donostia/ San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain from May 2-4, 2013. Speakers and presentations covered a variety of research topics including genetics, epidemiology, environmental risk factors, treatment and intervention, neurocognitive functioning, educational strategies, and community inclusion.

Current trainee Aisha Dickerson (Houston, TX), current trainee Clare Tessman (Chicago, IL), and 2 other AUCD trainees were in attendance and presenting at this prestigious meeting and were able to meet in Spain. Below are some of their thoughts on the experience and adventure of travelling and meeting.

Sightseeing Sightseeing

Aisha Dickerson (TX)

I received a Diversity Travel Award from the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and a Young Investigators Award from the Environmental Epidemiology of Autism Research Network (EEARN), funded by NIEHS, to cover the cost of travel. It occurred to me to send an email to all AUCD trainees to try to find a buddy to sight see with once I got to the conference. Though originally four people responded, two had to cancel. I and the other two trainees (one of whom was traveling with other AUCD trainees) planned to decide on a meeting location once we got there and email each other for confirmation. Unfortunately, my luggage was left in Miami on the first day, so I never made it to the convention center until it was time for my presentation. On the second day, Clare, who was at the conference for her employer, got sick and could not attend. However, on the third day, Clare and I managed to finally meet up at the registration desk during lunch. The last trainee was nervous about his upcoming presentation and skipped the photo, so the pictures that you see are of our very last day in San Sebastian. Ironically, we were both on the same flight to Madrid the next morning! It was an adventure to coordinate even a brief activity with three trainees in three different disciplines from three different locations to unite in one foreign country, but great to meet people from other programs and disciplines, however briefly!

Clare Tessman

Aisha thoughtfully put an email out on our trainees distribution list, and I responded saying I'd be there too! We emailed and had a few false starts in the midst of the very busy meeting, which had many distracting lectures that one could easily get sucked in by and trapped in!  Through persistence we managed to both be in the registration lobby at the appointed time, then we spent about 45 minutes or so having lunch, I met her advisor in Epidemiology, and we wandered around a little by the beach.

It was really lovely meeting Aisha and we have the same feeling of being really inspired to tell all the young people we encountered that they should find their local LEND and do the training! I had at least 5 conversations with interested people in graduate programs near a LEND, and told all of them they'd really get a lot out of LEND and would have a lot to contribute, too!

My blog ( will continue to have brief posts about my training and clinical experiences. I wrote recently on the state of not-knowing, which is certainly not "officially" a competency, but recognizing how much I have to learn has been a huge part of growing as a clinician (I'm becoming a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner AKA mental health advanced practice nurse).