President’s Column

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

Nancy Ruddy, PhD

It is difficult to believe that I am almost halfway through my presidential year. I had been warned the time goes quickly, and that certainly is true. At this midway point there are three areas that I would like to highlight:

              • The Society for Health Psychology Midwinter Executive Committee Meeting
              • Presidential Initiative: Response to the Opioid Crisis; Perspectives from Family, Addiction, and Pain Psychology
              • APA Convention Programming

Midwinter Meeting

A major focus of our Midwinter Executive Committee Meeting was to outline the advantages of SfHP membership and discuss how best to ensure great benefits like the listservs, website, educational resources and networking opportunities continue and expand.   Over wide-ranging discussions, certain themes around the value of engaged membership emerged, including:

  • A sense of belonging, connection, and shared values with other members
  • A venue through which to have a positive impact on health care policy and provision, and on the field of health psychology
  • Opportunities for career enhancement through leadership, networking, and education/training activities

Please take a moment and reflect on why you value membership in SfHP – there are likely as many reasons as there are members.   If you think of a benefit that doesn’t fall into any of these categories, please send it along in an email.

The Executive Committee also reviewed the new APA Strategic Plan and initiated a parallel review of the SfHP Long-Range Plan. We are very early in this process, but two areas of focus did emerge.

First, while the Society has become a role model for other divisions in engaging students and early career psychologists, there is a sense that our outreach and engagement with mid-career psychologists deserves equal focus. Particularly as our health care landscape changes, mid-career psychologists may be struggling with how to move forward. Many membership benefits align with common mid-career desires, such as seeking leadership opportunities, keeping current with the latest research and best practices, and finding like-minded psychologists with whom to network. We will be exploring the needs of our mid-career members and determining ways to engage more effectively going forward.

Second, we noted that role of technology in health and mental health is expanding.   As health psychologists, it is important that we be “in front of” this wave. We must expand and develop our professional competencies to use technology for the public good.   In addition, we need to collaborate and integrate with other professionals in health care and technology to facilitate technology development and implementation that align with our health psychology competencies. Finally, we need to have a voice in the policies that will govern the use of these technologies. This is a grand new frontier – and the “wagon trains” are well on their way.

If you are interested in working on initiatives for mid-career health psychologists, or feel you have expertise to offer in the areas of technology and health psychology, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you.

Presidential Initiative

In collaboration with the Society for Couple and Family Psychology (D43) and the Society of Addiction Psychology (D50) we are developing a series of webinars for psychologists to better understand the interplay of pain, opioid use, misuse and addiction, and family factors. We were awarded a small grant from APA through the Committee on Division/APA Relations (CODAPAR) to facilitate the development of training materials in these areas. In addition to collaboration with other APA Divisions, we have been working closely with the Center for Psychology and Health, and the Education and Practice Directorates, to ensure that the materials align with other initiatives, and to secure assistance in dissemination.

I am grateful for assistance from our Pain Psychology Interest Group members who are curating materials to educate psychologists to understand the impact of chronic pain and to have basic pain assessment and management competencies. Similarly, Addiction Psychology will curate resources to provide basic information regarding opiate appropriate use vs. misuse vs addiction, assessing the need for specialty addiction care, and helping patients and families find high-quality, evidence-based addiction services. Woven throughout these materials will be the interplay of family dynamics with these challenging issues, and strategies to help families cope and thrive in the context of chronic pain and/or challenges around the use or misuse of opiates. Across the board there seems to be a recognition that the intersection of family, pain, and addiction is a challenging place that the vast majority of psychologists are ill-prepared to assess and manage well. We are hopeful that the materials that come from this initiative will help psychologists enhance their ability to be of assistance.

Convention Programming

First, I want to acknowledge the hard work of the Program committee, especially chair Travis Lovejoy, PhD, MPH, for overseeing the review of proposals. One of our primary goals is to make convention programming more interactive. Often, there is enormous expertise in the audience, and we hope that our presenters will use their position on the dais to be a learner as well as a teacher.

My presidential programming will include two sessions that I am very excited about. First, as natural disasters become more common, we need to better understand the impact of natural disasters on health, particularly chronic disease self-management. The Earth Institute at Columbia University recently released a report on this issue, acknowledging the important role that psychologists and integrated primary care could play in health management after natural disasters. In addition, Marcos Reyes, PhD will share his experiences as a Puerto Rico-based health psychologist after Hurricane Maria.   The second session directly addresses meeting the needs of our mid-career health psychologists. Multiple leaders in the field will briefly share their leadership experiences and “tips for success,” followed by round-table mentoring sessions that focus on pragmatic “how to” tips in developing leadership roles in a variety of settings. It will be an amazing opportunity for mid-career health psychologists to explore the process of becoming a leader in a large system, as well as ways to have a positive impact both within and outside larger systems. I hope to see you at these presentations!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly – my email is

Nancy Ruddy, PhD