By Justin M. Nash, PhD
We are who we are and who we are is quite remarkable. We, the Society for Health Psychology that is, have membership that is reaching all-time highs (topping out at over 3,400). There are 130 members actively working on 15 councils and committees. One-hundred and sixteen of our members are involved in editorial roles producing seven different publications and communications. Health Psychology, with Ken Freedland at the helm, remains a premier journal for the best in psychological science. There is renewed growth in interest groups, with over 1100 members on different group listservs. Requests for the Integrated Primary Care curriculum have come in from over 150 programs.
Who we were at our founding is also quite remarkable. Our first early career award winners are a who’s who of health psychology pioneers — Patrick DeLeon, Judith Rodin, David Krantz, Margaret Chesney, Karen Mathews, Kelly Brownell, Andrew Baum, Sheldon Cohen, Robert Kaplan, and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. A number advanced to major leadership roles that extended well beyond health psychology, including Chief of Staff for a US Senator, President of an Ivy League university, Dean of a prestigious national private university. Thirty years from now we can look back at the contributions of 2018 winner Christopher Fagundes, who happened to be nominated by 1998 winner Janice Kiecolt-Glaser.
From our beginnings to where we are today has been an evolution. We have considerable heterogeneity in our mix. We continue to have active involvement from members who primarily conduct research and teach. Our membership has broadened to be comprised largely of professionals from academic medical centers, hospitals, health care systems, VA Medical Centers, and independent practice settings who provide patient care, consult, administer programs, and train the next generation of health service psychologists. For most of our members who identify as health psychologists, we are their primary home within APA. We are also a secondary home, of sorts, for up to a third of members who identify as something other than a health psychologist but share an interest in health.
Our strength is in our heterogeneity and our ability to connect with each other as part of a community. In different forums, our members team up on initiatives, engage in dialogue (sometimes challenging but most often supportive), and generally serve as resources for each other. The most novice and most expert among us reach out to the community with a question knowing that they in turn will receive valued guidance.
“It is a revolutionary world that we all live in; it is the young people who must take the lead.” Robert F. Kennedy, 1966
Our strength is also in welcoming students and young professionals into the fold and providing them with opportunities to grow their leadership abilities. The efforts almost 10 years ago by then-President Chris France to increase the involvement of early career psychologists has paid big dividends. Early career psychologists are now positioned throughout the organization helping lead us forward. Our Student Council, with current Chair KayLoni Olson, and Jenny Warnick before her, is increasingly connecting students to different initiatives in the organization. We now have 45 training programs with Campus Representatives who hosted 35 on-campus social/educational events in the past year. The revolutionary world we inhabit today is different from that of RFK’s 50 years ago. Today’s rapid innovations in technology are outpacing our ability to understand their impact on health and health care delivery. I know it is the youngest among us who often best understand emerging technologies.
Our strength is also in the number of established professionals who stay connected to the organization and serve in key leadership roles. In the words of RFK, youth exits not only in time of life but in also in state of mind. In my observations some of our most seasoned leaders are the most forward thinking among us. One of the beauties of the organization is that the seats at many of the Council and Committee tables are filled with health psychologists who represent the full career span.
“This world demands the quality of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of appetite for adventure over the life of ease.” Robert F. Kennedy, 1966
Who we are, however, is not entirely who we ought to be. While there is so much good among us, our heterogeneity lacks critical aspects of diversity from underrepresented groups. In his 1966 ‘Ripple of Hope’ speech, RFK emphasized inclusiveness in addressing civil rights, equality, and justice. In being more inclusive as an organization and having more voices from the underrepresented heard throughout the organization, we will make greater contributions as health psychologists in addressing today’s complex health challenges, including health inequality in vulnerable groups. We will also be truer to our guiding principles that diversity is protected, valued, and promoted, and that the Society’s governance is diverse and representative. A focus on diversity cannot just exist within the Diversity Council. The stage has been set by current Council Chair, Amit Shahane, for us to welcome more diverse voices into the organization. Incoming Council Chair Luz Garcini will now be able to take the helm and make important strides in bringing us forward. John Ruiz, as Member-at-Large, is already establishing himself on the Executive Committee as a leader who has the perspective and experience to guide the organization to greater inclusiveness.
Our attention is turning to the 2018 Convention. My year as President will come to an end at APA in San Francisco. Looking back at the beginnings of the organization almost 40 years ago, seeing today so many strengths that exist within us, and, most importantly, looking forward to where we can be tomorrow, I can only say that I have been honored to serve in this capacity. For the convention, Program Chair Stephanie Fitzpatrick has convened keynote speakers and organized symposia, panels, and other forums that speak to our theme, Health Psychology’s Contribution to Better Understanding and Addressing the Needs of the Underserved in Health Care. In San Francisco, I look forward to sitting around the table with our Board members, attending program sessions, and gathering with the community at our social hour, Le Colonial, Saturday, August 11, 2018 from 6:00-7:30. Hope to see you there!