Martica Hall, PhD, APS President
Just three months ago we met in Greece, in the shadow of the Parthenon, to celebrate our 70th annual scientific meeting. Suzanne Segerstrom, Program Chair, and her Program Committee put together a truly memorable conference that couldn’t help but be influenced by the meeting’s historic setting. On the first evening of the conference, Joel Dimsdale titled his invited address as the inaugural recipient of the APS Distinguished Scientist Award “Life’s a Journey.” In their invited presentations, other eminent scientists including George Chrousos, Suzanne Conzen, Herta Flor, Yael Benyamini, and Simon Wessely echoed this message when sharing their journeys of discovery, highlighting the significant and diverse multidisciplinary research that characterizes our field. These invited presentations were inspiring in their scope, depth, and vision. Also notable was the humor and honesty with which these individuals discussed their research programs and their careers. Observing the interactive session “Does your heart know best?” and watching luminaries like Neil Schneiderman, Redford Williams, and Steve Manuck, leading lively and candid discussions was something to behold. Each of these scientists sat in a circle with conference attendees along the academic continuum, from trainees to old friends. Around the circle, some participants were practically hopping in their seats in anticipation of sharing their thoughts, others were busily scribbling notes, and still others were shaking or nodding their heads in agreement or disagreement; but this I can say, all were leaning deeply into the discussion circle so as not to miss a word. On the final day of the conference we were treated with three laser-sharp award presentations from Steve Manuck, Stuart Derbyshire, and Mark Hamer that, again, spanned the spectrum of scientific inquiry that characterizes the work of society members. We also paid homage to Bob Ader, who passed away in December. Although everyone in our field is familiar with his ground breaking work, in their moving presentations Mike Irwin, Wijo Kopp, and Mark Laudenslager painted a fuller picture of a mentor and friend whose legacy truly is larger than life and who will not be forgotten. From my perspective, it is these characteristics, embodied in an individual like Bob Ader and in the spirit of our annual meeting, that make our society so extraordinary and unique.
Speaking of individuals, I owe a debt of gratitude to Mike Irwin and Paul Mills, whom I shadowed during the past year in their roles as President and immediate Past President of our society. Each is a strong and effective leader who listens attentively, thinks carefully and acts deliberately. Each has left an indelible mark on our society and we are the better for it. Paul, the consummate mentor and communicator, saw the potential in investing in enhancements to our website and increased opportunities for professional development. In collaboration with Laura Degnon of Degnon Associates, Mike’s archetypical management skills allowed him to envision a smaller, more efficient and more responsive Council; these changes in our governance structure are underway. Mike’s vision for our society and investment in our members led him to convene a one-day retreat to discuss ways to enhance the value of membership in the society. Our upcoming special conference “Biobehavioral Contributions to Cancer Exposomes: Toward Precision Medicine” to be held on October 26 of this year in Chicago is one tangible outcome of that meeting (see our website for more information about this conference). Paul has rotated off of Council and the Executive Committee but is still actively involved in leadership issues within the society. As Past President, Mike continues his leadership role on the Executive Committee which includes me, current President, Susan Lutgendorf, President Elect, and Mustafa al’Absi, our treasurer. The Executive Committee conducts monthly conference calls to discuss ongoing business and to respond to society needs and opportunities as they arise. I am a fortunate soul to be “sandwiched” between Mike and Susan and joined on this journey by Mustafa.
The Executive Committee doesn’t act alone. We have a Council that meets twice a year and via conference calls and email, as needed, to discuss and vote on society business, activities and initiatives. These individuals work hard to ensure that leadership is representative of all members of the society, from Associate to Regular to Emeritus members, irrespective of degree, discipline, gender, race/ethnicity, or geography. I would like to recognize three very hard-working individuals, Jos Brosschot, Gaston Kapuku and Karen Weihs, who rotated off of Council in March. Although their input at Council meetings will be missed, each remains tied into ongoing society activities, so no one will be riding off into the proverbial sunset. At the annual meeting, we welcomed three new Council members Leo Pozuelo, Viola Vaccarino and Tor Wager, from whom we expect great things.
To enhance communication between leadership and membership, all members of Council join one of our standing committees. Like Council, our standing committees play an important role in the conduct of society business. The Program Committee, Chaired by Suzanne Segerstrom, is our largest and most active committee. Within weeks of the meeting in Athens, they were already hard at work planning the 2013 Miami meeting whose theme is “Impact and Innovation.” Scott Matthews is the chair of the Membership Committee, co-chaired by Jos Bosch. These two young men have great vision and commitment; stay tuned in coming months for information regarding a special young investigator colloquium to be held in conjunction with the 2013 meeting in Miami. The Professional Education Committee, co-chaired by Daichi Shimbo and Serina Neumann, has been very active in building value to APS membership. Educational resources available to members include slide sets on content relevant to our field and ‘lecturecasts’ of selected invited presentations at recent annual meetings. Both the Membership and Professional Education committees are looking for individuals who are interested in joining and contributing to their important efforts. For those of you who are wondering how to make a difference in our society, membership on a committee is a great way to start!
Other smaller committees carry out more specialized functions. I would like to thank Doug Carroll for his service as Chair of the Awards Committee. As Chair of this committee, Doug had the vision and perseverance to lobby successfully for the implementation of a new and important award, the APS Distinguished Scientist Award, fittingly awarded this year to Joel Dimsdale. I would also like to thank Pete Gianaros, who has been an active member of the Awards Committee, for succeeding Doug as Chair of this committee. The Journal Committee, which works in an advisory capacity to the Editor-in-Chief of Psychosomatic Medicine, Wijo Kopp, will be chaired by Dick Jennings. The Nominating Committee, which reviews nominations for Officers and Council and devises the slate for membership vote, is chaired by me, as President. As part of our governance re-structuring, activities of the Liaison Committee are being subsumed by the Membership Committee. I do want to offer special recognition to Urs Nater and Benjamin Natelson. As co-chairs of the Liaison Committee, Urs and Ben worked actively with the Program Committee to identify and support an invited symposium of eminent sleep researchers at the 2012 meeting in Athens. The Diversity Promotion Committee, chaired by Gaston Kapuku, will be restructured as a special interest group, given that activities previously addressed by this committee are now represented within the Program and Awards committees. Gaston and other chairs of the Diversity Promotion Committee before him, Julian Thayer and Tene Lewis, deserve our thanks for highlighting important data related to discrimination and health as well as for enhancing opportunities for trainees who are members of underrepresented groups. Also deserving of our thanks is the Past Leaders Group. These individuals are men and women who have held elected or other leadership roles within APS; as a group, they provide input and guidance on issues under consideration by Council. Their wisdom and collective experience are invaluable. The Past Leaders group, previously chaired by Dick Jennings, will be chaired by Richard Lane, who has a long history of leadership in our society. Through Richard’s remarkable efforts, the Paul D. MacLean Award for Outstanding Neuroscience Research in Psychosomatic Medicine and the MacLean Scholar travel awards were inaugurated and endowed. Bravo Richard!
Other accomplishments during the past year include the inaugural E-newsletter, an electronic and more interactive version of the APS Newsletter, edited by John Ruiz. Under John’s leadership, the newsletter features member-derived content such as the popular “Getting to Know You” interviews and “Practical Science” reports, as well as updates on Committee activities, the President’s Message, and other society business. As part of the Information Technology Task Force, Mary Cousins-Reed worked with Sarah Shiffert and Christine Lusk at Degnon Associates to compile information related to ways that electronic media might enhance membership value. These data led Council to approve funds to support improvements to our website and to propose additional opportunities for enhancing membership value via electronic media. Although some of us maintain our love affair with paper, electronic media appears to be here to stay and is the media of choice among the young men and women who represent the future of our society.
All of these activities are made possible by the support of our management company, Degnon Associates. As many of you know, Degnon Associates has managed our business for more than 25 years. George Degnon and Laura Degnon, joined by Sarah Shiffert, Christine Lusk, Marge Degnon, and others make sure that the day to day activities of the society run smoothly. They work with our publisher, accountants, and conference hotels to ensure that our journal, annual meeting, and assets are managed in the best interests of the society. Their vision is responsible for many of the services we enjoy as society members, such as online access on the entire Psychosomatic Medicine archive and a more transparent and streamlined leadership structure. So the next time you interact with a member of the Degnon Team - to inquire about the status of your conference abstract, to ask about nominating a colleague for one of our awards, or when you pick up your registration materials at our biobehavioral oncology conference in October or our annual meeting in Miami next March - don’t forget to say “Thank you!”
In closing, I respectfully request that you take part in the historic vote regarding the name/identity of our society. As members of APS (Associate, Regular, Emeritus) you should have received an email message from the APS office titled “requesting your vote on pursuing a name change.” This document provides the background and rationale for considering a possible name change and requests that you vote on whether to keep the name, as is, or pursue a name change. If you vote in favor of a name change, the document asks that you rank order three potential alternate terms to ‘psychosomatic’ or write in another preferred term. In the event that 2/3 of the voting members vote “yes” to pursue a name change, a second vote will take place in the fall in which all members will have the opportunity to vote on the full name of the society. As noted in our letter to members, Council has not undertaken this action lightly. We have been careful in our deliberations and have endeavored to approach the issue with the gravity and respect that it deserves. I hope you will take the opportunity to vote and let your voice be heard on this very important issue. Voting will remain open through June 29, 2012.