President’s Column

Justin M. Nash, PhD
Justin M. Nash, PhD

Justin M. Nash, Ph.D.

We are at the halfway point in my role as President of the Society. I continue to develop a deeper appreciation for the organization and its people.  I find that there is an investment on the part of those who are involved in all levels of the organization, from Barbara Keeton with her considerable administrative expertise, to the established leaders who offer their vast knowledge and stable leadership, to emerging leaders who bring energy and creativity.  My appreciation is also deepening for our members who engage with, and serve as resources for, each other.  The Society membership remains strong.  We are all connected by our shared interest in health psychology.  Not unexpectedly, with a 3,000-plus member organization, we also have our differences (as is certainly evident at times on the listserv).  I consider there to be richness in our differences, and an opportunity for greater insight and understanding.

I believe the Society will continue to strengthen as we diversify. A diverse and inclusive health psychology professional organization is a stronger one, and one that is best positioned to contribute to addressing society’s complex health challenges.  A number of years ago, the organization took steps to bring early career psychologists into influential roles.  Today, early career psychologists are playing a big part in driving the organization forward. There is room, and a need, at the leadership table to be inclusive of those from under-represented backgrounds.  I know I learn more from those who sit alongside me at the table, as opposed to when they are out there somewhere in the organization or larger profession.  I also see room for our current leaders to not feel confined by their current roles, and to speak comfortably from all facets of themselves, including from their own diverse and perhaps under-represented perspectives.  Diversity and inclusion within the organization does not have to exist within a certain council, or connect to a certain individual or committee of individuals.  It should be infused throughout the fabric of the organization.

At the Midwinter Executive Committee Meeting, we had a fruitful discussion about how the Society for Health Psychology can better build toward inclusive excellence. The path forward is not well defined for the organization.   One of our guiding principles is that diversity is protected, valued, and promoted.  One of our next steps is to make it part of every one of our goals:  Identity, Education and Training, Outreach, and Inreach.  We know the path to inclusive excellence will take an effort at multiple levels, including reaching out to diverse students, welcoming them into our organization, and helping to develop them into tomorrow’s leaders.  We believe that with these efforts, our differences will serve to better connect and not divide us.

At the upcoming APA convention in San Francisco, Stephanie Fitzpatrick, PhD, Program Chair extraordinaire, is helping us take a step forward by inviting a series of keynote speakers who are making important contributions to understanding and addressing the complex health needs of the under-represented. Parinda Khatri, PhD is Chief Clinical Officer of Cherokee Health Systems, a comprehensive community health care organization in Tennessee.  She has long been a national leader in designing and implementing cutting-edge psychology services for under-resourced individuals. Beverly Thorn, PhD, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama, is conducting innovative research developing behavioral approaches to address persistent painful conditions in low-literacy individuals. Ana Bridges, PhD, Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas, is expert in understanding the barriers that culturally diverse, underserved individuals face in accessing mental health services.  She also addresses ways that services in primary care settings can help address and reduce health disparities. Bhrett McCabe, PhD is a health-trained sports and performance psychologist for the University of Alabama Athletic Department and consultant for a number of PGA, LPGA, NFL, NBA, and even MMA athletes.  He departs from the theme of the other invited addresses (except for being from Southeastern conference).  Dr. McCabe’s keynote will address the influential role of the mind, and the relevance of health psychology, in the rehabilitation from athletic injury.

I look forward to us all being together at the same table in San Francisco.