Winter 2012/2013

President's Message
Martica Hall, PhD, APS President

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as President of APS and I thank the membership for this opportunity. We have accomplished much in 2012 and exciting plans are underway for 2013, suggesting that APS is a thriving organization with much to offer to you, its members.

This fall we held our first-ever single-day specialty conference on biobehavioral oncology, co-chaired by Karen Weihs and Paige McDonald. Many thanks to Karen, Paige and the rest of their stellar planning committee: Mike Irwin, Erin Costanzo, Janine Giese-Davis and Frank Penedo. We are also grateful to the National Cancer Institute and to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University for their support of this historic conference. The conference format was designed to provide more discussion than is customary following paper presentations, allowing for spirited inquiry and debate among presenters and audience members. One of the concepts we learned about at this conference was the “exposome” which refers to all non-genetic factors experienced by an individual throughout their life and, as such, complements genome studies of disease etiology. Although conference discussion regarding the exposome was focused on cancer, this concept may be applied to other models of health and disease that are of interest to APS researchers and clinicians. Planning is already underway for the 2013 specialty conference which will focus on diabetes and obesity. Sue Everson-Rose has graciously agreed to chair the fall 2013 conference.

Next on the horizon is our 2013 Annual Meeting, which will be held in Miami, March 13-16. The meeting’s theme, Impact and Innovation, is especially timely; questions related to impact and innovation, while always valid, often move to the forefront during times of dwindling resources of support for scientific research. The meeting is coming together nicely, thanks to the leadership of Suzanne Segerstrom and the members of the Program Committee. This promises to be a fantastic meeting and I look forward to seeing you there.

Other activities undertaken during 2012 include revisions to our bylaws to streamline our governance structure, implementation of a social media survey and related updates to our website and newsletter, development of a special Young Investigator Colloquium by the Membership Committee to be held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting in Miami, and the addition of new educational materials to our website by the Professional Education Committee. The most hotly debated activity of 2012 was the decision by Council to conduct a membership survey regarding the name of our society. Clearly, much is “in a name” - while there are very good reasons for keeping our name as is, there are also compelling reasons for changing our name. As most of you are aware, two-thirds of members who voted in the survey favored pursuing a name change. As previously noted in a letter to the membership, this does not mean that we will change the name of our society, this vote simply means that we will move forward in a transparent, stepped fashion to identify a candidate alternate name and subsequently conduct a two-choice vote: (1) keep our current name or (2) adopt the candidate alternate name as the name of our society. Open communication and discussion with members across the diverse spectrum of membership that characterizes our organization is critical to this process, the outcome of which will be determined by the membership, as appropriate. APS is your organization. Council wants to ensure you are well informed about the pros and cons of keeping or changing the society’s name and we want to insure that you have adequate opportunity to express your opinions. Below is the process we will follow, which is based on feedback from the membership, input from the Past Leaders Group, and extended discussion at the Fall Council Meeting. We will continue to provide updates and opportunities for input from you as this process unfolds over the coming months.

Step 1. Identify candidate alternate name: In January, members will be asked to rank-order their preference for the following three names: American Biobehavioral Society (ABS), Association for Biopsychosocial Medicine (ABM), and Society for Psychobiology and Medicine (SPBM). These candidates are based on input from membership including the Past Leaders Group during and following the survey and discussion at the Fall Council Meeting. A stepped approach will be used to identify the front-runner candidate alternate name. First, rank orders will be tabulated and the two front-runners will be identified. Second, rankings of individuals who identified the third-place name as their first choice will be resorted so that their 2nd choice ranking is added to the tabulation of the top two candidate names. For example: If I voted for ABS (#1), SPBM (#2) and ABM (#3) but ABS was the third-ranked candidate overall, my “vote” would then be applied to SPBM. Although this process might seem complicated, its purpose is to give a voice to Members whose first choice has no chance of being selected as the candidate alternate name. The front-runner candidate alternate name will be that name receiving the most votes among the top two candidate alternate names.

Step 2. Provide forum for Members to discuss the front-runner candidate alternate name: Results of the alternate name rankings will be reviewed and discussed during the Membership Meeting at the Annual Meeting in Miami. A blog will also be set up on our website to insure that all members have the opportunity to openly discuss the pros and cons of the identified candidate alternate name and in relation to our society’s current name.

Step 3. Vote: Once member input has been collected and shared, we will conduct a vote on the name of our society. Members will have the opportunity to vote for one of two choices (1) keep APS as our name or (2) change the name to the candidate alternate name previously identified by membership vote. Given the importance of this vote, we will only change the name of our organization if two-thirds of voting members vote in favor of a name change.

Council is keenly aware of the charged nature of this action. This process has been and will continue to be undertaken in a deliberate and transparent fashion, with opportunity for input and discussion amongst members. Healthy debate on a topic as important as identity is a valuable process. By strengthening our society, we strengthen current and future generations of researchers, mentors and clinicians committed to our mission - “to promote and advance the scientific understanding and multidisciplinary integration of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in human health and disease, and to foster the dissemination and application of this understanding in education and health care.”

I look forward to seeing you in Miami in a couple months’ time. Until then, take good care of yourselves and those you love - be well.