Mustafa al'Absi, PhD, LP, APS President
Moving Towards Greater Relevance and Impact
APS continues to thrive, maintaining its distinguished record of a diverse, interdisciplinary membership and positioning itself for leadership in advancing the integration of biological, psychological, and behavioral approaches in medicine.
In recent years, APS has engaged in important reflections regarding its strengths and its identity. These reflections have helped us recognize the strong traditions that were pivotal to building the Society's credible and distinguished track-record. In light of this history, the Society is poised to take a step forward, enhancing our relevance and impact through strategic efforts that aim to increase awareness of APS and the activities of its members within scientific and professional communities. To that end, the APS Council has been engaged in ongoing discussions that focus on two strategic goals: 1) fostering dissemination of psychosomatic medicine and 2) building collaborative bridges with other societies. We plan to continue this discussion in a more focused manner in a meeting slated to take place this coming fall.
Reflecting on activities related to fostering dissemination of Psychosomatic Medicine, I should note that in recent years APS has launched multiple initiatives including the Mid-Year Meeting and the Young Investigator Colloquium. The Mid-Year Meeting is a full-day event that helps advance the training of APS members (especially physicians), recruit new members, and disseminate the excellent work generated by members of the Society. Furthermore, APS promotes the translation of biopsychosocial research through the Mid-Year Meeting by engaging medical subspecialties and partnering with major organizations whose interests coincide with the topic chosen by APS for any given year. This summer, we are gearing-up for our third Mid-Year Meeting, which will be held on September 25, 2015, in New York, NY. The title for this year's meeting is Brain-Gut Interactions and the Intestinal Microenvironment, which is being organized in collaboration with the American Gastroenterology Association Institute. This meeting promises to be an exciting event that brings together many international experts who will present the latest research on the roles of gut bacteria in determining health and disease. What is interesting about this event, in addition to the many discoveries in this area, is its emphasis on understanding the effects of gut flora on behavioral disorders, pain, and mood. Â I would like to acknowledge, here, the hard work of APS members who have dedicated their time and energy to plan this event, including the meeting's Co-Chairs, Douglas A. Drossman, MD and Magnus Simren, MD; our past president, Karen Weihs, MD; and the past leader representative, Matthew Muldoon, MD. I hope to see many of you in attendance at this important APS event.
Continuing our strong tradition, the Annual Meeting and our premier journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, remain as the major components of our dissemination efforts. In 2015, Kristen Salomon, PhD, Program Chair, and the Program Committee put together another rich and successful conference, which took place in Savannah, Georgia. The conference included distinguished invited- and award- presentations, symposia, and paper sessions highlighting the excellent work of APS members. Under the current leadership of Wijo Kop, PhD, the Editor-in-Chief of Psychosomatic Medicine, our journal continues to be the premier publication outlet for psychosomatic medicine research.
APS is also continuing on-going activities to foster dissemination of psychosomatic medicine via the Society's website and through the development of educational resources. Building on the nice work that was initiated by our previous president, Dr. Susan Lutgendorf, we are continuing to improve the APS website. (By the way, our business office is always looking for feedback and suggestions on how to improve the website functionality and appearance.) Moreover, the Professional Education Committee (led by Karl Maier, PhD and Eva Szigethy, MD) is dedicating efforts to develop resources that will help disseminate information about psychosomatic medicine. One promising resource that the committee is discussing involves creating short videos on topics related to psychosomatic medicine as a field. To maximize the utility and the relevance of the content presented, these videos would be developed with specific target audiences in mind. Furthermore, the videos would be posted online to broaden our reach and maximize our impact.
Another educational initiative that APS is considering involves curriculum development, with a focus on psychosomatic medicine offerings for other medical specialties, such as cardiology. Drs. Christoph Herrmann-Lingen and Karen Weihs are looking into the logistics of this strategy; and they plan to coordinate with members of APS who have experience developing courses related to psychosomatic medicine.
The Psychosomatic Medicine Interest Groups (PMIG) initiative (led by Leo Pozuelo, MD) was developed by APS several years ago; and it continues to be another important means of disseminating information and facilitating interest in psychosomatic medicine among medical students and other trainees at institutions that receive funding from APS. Our goals for the PMIG initiative include recruiting promising physicians and young researchers to join APS and encouraging interested students to pursue careers in psychosomatic medicine. In addition, APS is considering a possible expansion of PMIG to enhance the presence of psychosomatic medicine in medical centers throughout the country.
APS is also continuing the successful Young Investigator Colloquium (with Oliver Cameron, MD replacing the original chair Richard Lane, MD, PhD and with the support of Scott Matthews, MD, Jos Bosch, PhD and Mary-Frances O'Connor, PhD). This excellent outreach program focuses on recruiting young and promising scientists into the field of psychosomatic medicine and supporting their career growth. The half-day Young Investigator Colloquium brings together the expertise of senior APS mentors with postgraduate trainees (i.e., physician fellows, residents and postdoctoral fellows) who plan to obtain faculty positions and conduct psychosomatic research. As a result, the Young Investigator Colloquium fosters development of cutting-edge, innovative, and impactful psychosomatic research; and young scientists receive constructive feedback and lessons for professional success. For instance, junior scientists and fellows who attend the event develop a proposal prior to the event; and they receive feedback on the proposal during the Young Investigator Colloquium. In addition, attendees benefit from an expert lecture in which an established scholar shares lessons and recommendations for success in academia. The Young Investigator Colloquium also provides an excellent opportunity for networking with senior colleagues and young investigators.
Taken together, we hope that these initiatives enhance the relevance and increase the impact of the efforts and scholarship that are foundational to APS and its members.
Related to our goals to build collaborative bridges with other organizations, the Society continues to maintain established relationships while also looking into options for partnering with, and reaching-out to, other organizations. For instance, APS is currently an active member of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) and of the Coalition to Promote Research (CPR) within COSSA. In addition, we encourage individual connections with scientific organizations that share similar interests. Fruitful ideas for future inter-societal connections can replicate, or build-on, our past successes. For instance, APS liaising functions have included organizing APS symposia for conferences hosted by other organizations, providing speakers for other organizations' meetings, and working directly with the leaders of other organizations to promote APS activities within those societies. These ideas are just a sample of the many ideas that can be discussed.
Over the coming months, I look forward to encouraging, guiding, and supporting the Society's continued success through its ongoing partnerships and through its continued efforts to establish and maintain new connections both among psychosomatic medicine scholars and among organizations that share interests with APS and its membership.
I must note, finally, that the continued success of APS depends on the dedicated efforts of many people. I would like to thank here the Degnon Associates, our management company, for their hard work and insight. We also count on the spirit of volunteering embraced by APS members for implementing strategies that will bring us closer to achieving our goals: increasing the relevance and impact of psychosomatic medicine through dissemination of our science and building collaborative bridges. To that end, I invite any members to connect with me, with other members of the Council, or with Committee Chairs to provide help and share ideas about our Society's various ongoing initiatives.