Fall/Winter 2011

President's Message
Michael Irwin, MD, APS President

The vibrant future of the American Psychosomatic Society as the premier international scientific society for biobehavioral medicine is fostered in part by the vision and volunteer efforts of our membership. At our Fall Council meeting, this dedication was evident as your leadership group identified organizational priorities and aligned resources to deliver value to you at many levels including the annual meeting, our journal Psychosomatic Medicine, professional education activities, and liaison outreach.

The dynamic and rapidly changing biomedical and social environment of our times requires that your Society administration be as efficient and nimble as possible in identifying opportunities for growth and excellence. Prior to the Council meeting, the group read a wonderful book entitled “Race for Relevance” by Coerver and Byers, which provided multiple contrasting perspectives on professional organizations and efficacy of their varying administrative structures. During our two days of Council planning, the context of this book was repeatedly captured and reflected in the development of innovative ideas to streamline the administrative structure of this leadership body. Toward this aim, the specific tasks of operational committees such as membership, professional education, and program were further defined, with an additional goal of facilitating synergistic linkages across these committees. Throughout these discussions, the importance of electronic communication platforms to integrate these activities and to better serve society membership was recognized. In response to such a lively discussion of contrasting views, Council charged the leadership with development of a proposal of revised governance, which would serve, if approved, to integrate certain committee functions. Moreover, a successful proposal would serve the goal of achieving a highly responsive administration that fully represents the diverse interests of our Society.

As described in my last message to the membership, a Membership Task Force co-chaired by Tene Lewis, Ph.D. and Scott Matthews, M.D. with Paige McDonald, Ph.D. and Karen Weihs, M.D., as well as myself as liaison to the Council, was convened this last summer. The Task Force proposed two initiatives that were approved by Council. The first initiative intends to target non-member constituencies who share a high level of common interests with the Society, but who are not yet aware of the value of membership in our organization. To accomplish this goal, APS will sponsor a one-day meeting (separate from the annual meeting), which will reach out to physician- and non-physician non-members, as well as members, to increase focus on target areas such as oncology, pain, asthma, diabetes. The first such meeting will be in the area of Biobehavioral Oncology in Fall 2012, with the goal of identifying new interdisciplinary clinician scientists in this area. To further the visibility of APS, the meeting will be broadly advertised and also available on the APS website for on-line participation. Karen Weihs, M.D. and Paige McDonald, Ph.D. are organizing the scientific content of this meeting.

The second initiative seeks to increase the rate and number of Associate Members who become Regular Members, and recognizes the value that Associate Members hold for the mentorship opportunities available at the APS through its annual meeting and informal networks. To facilitate formal mentorship, APS will create a Young Investigator Colloquium to take place the day before our Annual Meeting, to begin in 2013. This colloquium will provide a forum for a select group of trainees/associate members to meet in small groups with senior mentor faculty for the purposes of research- and career development.

In addition to the action items related to membership, Council also approved the formation of the Journal Committee. This new standing committee serves to advise the Editor of Psychosomatic Medicine and Council on any actions that may affect the quality or independence of the journal’s scientific content, and to review and advise on major journal-related initiatives of the Editor and Council to insure that they are programmatically, ethically, and financially appropriate. The Committee consists of 5 voting members, including one member of the Executive Committee, one member of Council who is not on the Executive Committee and who is not an Associate Editor of Psychosomatic Medicine, and 3 members who may or may not be members of APS and who are not members of Council or Associate Editors of Psychosomatic Medicine.  The Journal Committee will also include the Editor-in-Chief (Ex Officio, nonvoting), Executive Director (Ex Officio, nonvoting) and/or Associate Executive Director (Ex Officio, nonvoting).

Another action item focused on the information technology capabilities of APS, and the need for the Society to develop a comprehensive communications plan. To this end, an Information Technology Task Force to be chaired by Mary Coussons-Read, Ph.D. was approved. The charge of this task force is to provide a plan that will integrate APS information technologies activities across committees, publications (e.g., newsletter, journal), and activities (e.g., annual meeting). In this regard, John Ruiz, Ph.D. editor of the APS newsletter, and Wijo Kop, Ph.D. editor of Psychosomatic Medicine, are working together to develop an electronic newsletter that will bring highlights from the journal into the newsletter, and do so with active links to the journal content. Moreover, the Professional Education Committee lead by Daichi Shimbo, M.D. and Serina Neumann Ph.D. is creating an online mechanism for the uploading of educational materials onto the APS website, with consideration of offering continuing medical education (CME) credits for access to these lectures, presentations, and other educational materials.

The Council also heard the results of a comprehensive survey conducted by Paul Mills, Ph.D. and Matt Muldoon, M.D. regarding the name and identity of APS. The results of this survey are presented in a separate column by Paul Mills, Ph.D. in this newsletter.

Finally, Council heard from Suzanne Segerstrom, Ph.D., chair of the Program Committee, about the exciting annual meeting to be held in Greece this coming March. In this regard, Benjamin Natelson, M.D., chair of the Liaison Committee, reported on the development of an invited symposium for the 2012 annual meeting, which will focus on sleep and health including several non-members in the speaker roster. Council also deliberated on mechanisms to maximize membership involvement during the meeting, including changes in the format to include greater discussion among participants; for example, panel discussions will likely be urged to structure more time for discussion and to train member who are leading the sessions on ways to maximize discussion.

We hope to see you at our 70th Annual Meeting, March 14-17, 2012 at the Hilton Athens, Athens, Greece!  Information provided by our local contacts assure us that Athens will be a welcoming, safe, and organized meeting venue, which will not be dampened by the economic issues facing many of the European countries including Greece.