President’s Column: Accidental President

Nancy B. Ruddy, PhD
Nancy B. Ruddy, PhD

Nancy B. Ruddy, PhD

I have joked since learning that I was elected President of the Society for Health Psychology that I am the “Accidental President.”  Like many who agree to run for executive positions, I assumed that running was all I would do.  However, I am happily surprised to be serving the Society as President.  I am so grateful for all the benefits I have received from the Society, and thus, grateful to have this chance to give back my time and energy.

Fortunately, I join a seasoned, committed and brilliant group of people who serve on the Executive Committee.  I follow strong leadership from Justin Nash, and look forward to passing the role on to another strong leader, Zeeshan Butt.  Further, I have great support from colleagues and friends, and of course, from the heart of our organization, our Administrative Officer, Barbara Keeton.

So now comes the work of making meaning out of this opportunity.  Our vibrant membership understands the critical expertise health psychologists bring to the mission of improving the health of our population.  We know that behavioral factors are the largest contributor to premature death and disability.  We know that we bring evidence-based interventions to bear on these issues, and that our research community plays a critical role in expanding our understanding of these factors in health and wellness.  I look forward to working with our Executive Committee and our wonderfully engaged Early Career psychologists to support efforts to ensure that our policy makers, educational community, and even the general public expand their awareness of the centrality of health psychology.

I hope to apply my own background in Primary Care Psychology to further enhance training in this area of growth.  In my role as Chair of the Integrated Primary Care Special Interest Group, I have come to appreciate how a group of passionate, committed people can work together to create positive change.  I want to help the Society find other areas that might benefit from a concentrated focus.  I also want to support our other current SIG leaders, Ravi Prasad (Pain Psychology) and Helen Coons (Women’s Health) to harness the incredible expertise found within these SIGs.  I thank them for their tireless service.

We live in interesting times, as the old curse goes. . .  While there are many areas that need attention, it is clear that the opioid crisis presents a unique challenge (and unique opportunity) to apply our knowledge as health psychologists, and more specifically, pain psychologists.  I am working with our Pain SIG and leaders from the Divisions of Addiction Psychology and Family Psychology to create a series of trainings.  These trainings focus on the interface of pain, health, addiction, and family factors in the prevention and management of opioid use, misuse, and addiction.  We are in the early stages of planning these trainings, so more information is to come.  We have already found fertile ground for collaboration, and recognition that all of these lenses are critical to success.

In addition, I hope to continue the important work reflected in Justin Nash’s presidential initiatives regarding disparities in health and health care access.  Justin started initiatives within the Society to heighten our focus on the importance of diverse voices and perspectives in our organization.   Increasing our own focus on honoring diversity is a first step in better understanding and responding to the health needs of the diverse population we serve.

Our 2019 Program Chair, Travis Lovejoy, is actively working on planning an engaging and excellent 41st Program for the Society for Health Psychology, August 8 – 11 in Chicago. Our convention theme is:  “Contextualizing Health:  Family, Social and Cultural Factors in Health Psychology.”  We hope to “tweak” the format here and there, to ensure that all presenters have ample time to give meaningful presentations that offer participants information and insights they can use in their own work.   We also hope to find ways to engage the expertise in the audience more actively.  Note that the deadline for submissions (through the APA online portal) is Monday, December 3, 2018.

At the end of the day, the Society is nothing without an engaged membership.  I hope that you also feel that the Society for Health Psychology is your professional home.

Please reflect on how the Society supports your work – from the opportunity to engage with other experts on our listservs and our Convention programming, to the work we do to support advocacy and policy engagement around issues important to health psychologists.

Please reach out to me through the SfHP office if you have ideas on how the Society can improve.  We aim to be a “big tent” organization: an inclusive home for psychologists who recognize that our minds and bodies, our emotional and physical lives, are inexorably intertwined.

Thank you for being part of our mission.