Debbie Roepe, Executive Director, introducing the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD).

When was your association founded?

In 1970

Where is your association based, how many members do you have & in how many countries?

The ISSVD Headquarters office is located in Charlotte, NC of the US.  We currently have 509 members representing 43 countries.

Who are your members?

Our members consist of medical clinicians of all levels of care, researchers, academics, nurses, sexual counsellors, physical therapists, etc. from the fields of gynaecology, dermatology, pathology, oncology, physical therapy, sexual therapy, pain research, etc.

What is your mission & aim of the association?

The ISSVD Logo is a gothic arch corresponding to the lines of longitude of an overlying globe. The late Dr. Eduard G. Friedrich, Jr. stated in his 1983 presidential address, Foundations of the Arch, ” that although the structure appears to be …a finished edifice, we are more like one of the great cathedrals of Europe in its unfinished state. Those who struggled with the early foundations… rarely lived to see the completed structure…. They depended on those who came afterward to achieve the fulfilment of their vision.”  We continue to work on this mission, which will never be complete, but to keep working to build and give the foundation of this education to as many providers as we can ultimately reach.

What are the major challenges facing your association?

As with most non-profits, finances are always a challenge.  Especially with the need to bring this education to areas where clinicians face so many challenges and cannot afford to spend the time and or money to travel to receive the education.  We must therefore bring it to them, but this can be quite an expensive task since specialists who can provide the adequate education are limited and must travel to places that are not able to support the expense of the endeavour.  Also, while we need members in all areas of the world, it is difficult for some clinicians to participate in our events due to travel and financial constraints.   We must bring the education to them! And this can prove to be very expensive for a small non-profit group, like ours.

What kind of events are organised by your association?

The ISSVD hosts an International World Congress and Postgraduate Course Biennially rotated throughout the world.  We also host Biennial Conferences in the United States on the opposite years. As well as, Postgraduate Courses throughout the US and are looking to host these events more frequently in other parts of the world.

What is the decision process behind the selection of a destination/venue?

Our World Congress and Postgraduate course is generally selected by the President and the Executive Council based on the needs of our membership. 

Can you share your insights about the latest trends within the association community?

So many things are changing in the world today in regard to associations.  One of the big changes is the use of webinars and other digital formats replacing the face to face meeting. This is a constant struggle to keep up with.  It is imperative that we maintain a collaborative approach, which is difficult to do in a digital platform.  Therefore, face to face meetings continue to be an important necessity for our organization. 

I find it more difficult to negotiate with hotels, since they need sleeping rooms to make their profit margins, but with so many online booking agencies, many attendees prefer to find their own accommodation, making it quite difficult to promise a hotel a good turnout.

What does your association do in terms of legacy, do your meetings have a societal impact on the destination?

Our main goal is to serve the women who need assistance due to the suffering they endure due to an under-educated medical community.  Our desire is to properly educate all clinicians who will treat women suffering from these diseases, so that they can both diagnose and treat women efficiently and effectively.  When we choose a venue, it is our aim to leave that venue with a more educated group of providers who have better tools to diagnose and treat these women and to give them a platform to interact with and connect with other clinicians who can assist them in the future.

Are you looking to forge collaborations with other associations? If so in what areas of expertise?

We already have many societies that we collaborate with and are always open to working with a society that shares a common goal. 

We are currently working the ICS and many other collaborative societies to write a consensus paper to address the use of lasers, which has offered new techniques that have become quite popular despite the lack of evidence to support the benefits.  We have collaborated with all interested societies, in order to create a unified response to this practice.

For more information please check their website: