Winter 2016

President's Message
Mustafa al'Absi, PhD, LP, APS President

Invigorating APS Strategy Towards Greater Scientific and Clinical Impact

Last month, I reported to you that members of APS leadership, including Council members and 11 other key individuals (former leaders and others who are involved in important functions within APS), met in Miami, Florida for a strategic planning meeting. The two-day gathering, which had an excellent facilitator (Mr. Bob Harris), started with an overview of APS’s mission, history, recent strategic plans, and ongoing initiatives. Then, the group as a whole (and numerous break-out groups) engaged in multiple discussions focusing on the APS mission, values, and goals. As a result of these discussions, we developed modifications to the APS mission, goals, and values. We also devised strategies to help APS achieve its new goals; and we agreed on performance measures that will allow us to assess progress and success as APS moves forward. Toward the end of the meeting, APS Council convened, discussed the meeting outcomes, and voted unanimously to approve the proposed modifications to APS’s mission statement, tagline, values, and goals.

The updated APS mission statement captures our dedication"to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease." We affirm this mission and, for the first time, we embrace our long history within the APS tagline, which now reads "integrating mind, brain, body and social context in medicine since 1942." In addition, we are excited to introduce a list of well-thought-out values that reinforces our dedication to: Scientific Rigor, Clinical Relevance, Multidisciplinary Collaboration, Membership Diversity, and Nurturing Community.

At the strategic planning meeting, we dedicated a significant portion of our time to discussing APS goals and specific strategies for achieving these goals over the next three to five years. Aligning well with our mission statement, the first goal of APS is to advance scientific excellence in psychosomatic medicine. APS’s second goal is to enhance the clinical relevance of our mission by "increasing clinical and public health relevance of biopsychosocial research." The third goal identified at the strategic planning meeting is for APS to maintain a vibrant and diverse membership that consists of "an engaged membership balanced by disciplines, career stages, national/ethnic backgrounds, clinical vs. basic researchers."

In the time since the strategic planning meeting, APS leadership has started developing specific initiatives to address the rich list of goals and strategies developed during the planning meeting. I expect, over the next few months, accelerated movement towards implementing these initiatives; and I plan to share with you more information on specific initiatives in future communications. As a way to promote our efforts, we will highlight our modified mission, tagline, values, and goals through APS communications, including the APS website and APS letterheads. In addition, we are going to create some new materials (brochures, business and other handouts) that we will make available during the Annual Meeting and the Mid-Year Meeting.

In addition to the strategic planning meeting, another exciting event that APS had last fall was the third Mid-Year Meeting, which was a highly successful event that attracted scientists and clinicians from multiple disciplines and from around the country. The meeting was held in New York City (September 25, 2015) and focused on brain-gut interactions and the intestinal microenvironment. The meeting was organized in collaboration with the American Gastroenterology Association Institute; and the meeting included important and cutting-edge presentations. Many international experts presented their latest research on the roles of gut bacteria in determining health and disease. The meeting also focused on understanding the effects of gut flora on behavioral disorders, pain, and mood. As a result of this meeting, we expect a white paper and a special issue of our journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, to be dedicated to the theme of this meeting. I would like to acknowledge, here, the APS members and colleagues who worked tirelessly 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 would also like to thank Emeran Mayer, MD, for presenting at the meeting and for agreeing to serve as the Guest Editor for the special issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Overall, the Mid-Year Meeting series has been effective in bridging the field of Psychosomatic Medicine with other areas of cutting-edge science. The meetings have helped foster dissemination of exciting research conducted by our members; they have advanced the training of APS members (especially physicians); and they have facilitated recruitment of new members. Through these meetings, we have maintained our focus on engaging medical subspecialties and we have partnered with major organizations whose interests coincide with the topic chosen by APS for any given year.  Building on the successes of the previous three meetings, we are currently preparing for the 2016 Mid-Year meeting, which will focus on the neuroscience of pain, with a focus on the effects of early life adversity, mechanisms, and treatment. I am very pleased to have Tor Wager, PhD, Richard Lane, MD, PhD and Christoph Herrmann-Lingen, MD, helping us organize the 2016 meeting, which is slated to take place in New York City on October 15, 2016.

Looking forward, I am excited about our upcoming 2016 Annual Meeting, which will be held at the Westin Denver Downtown Hotel on March 9-12, 2016. Dr. Lorenzo Cohen and his program committee have been working very hard to prepare an exciting and rich program. This year’s meeting theme is “Translating Research into Practice: From Bench to Policy.” The program committee has lined-up a number of featured plenary speakers, including Dean Ornish, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco; Lisa Marsch, PhD, Director of both the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health as well as the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center; and Kevin Tracey, MD, President and CEO of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Professor of Molecular Medicine & Neurosurgery at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.

Invited Symposia at the 2016 Annual Meeting will focus on translating research into practice, neuroinflammation, and what is sure to be a heated discussion on cannabis and cannabinoid research (featuring leaders in research and policy issues related to marijuana use). In addition, many other symposia and presentations will address the latest research in psychosomatic medicine.  The meeting will also include training workshops focusing on central and peripheral inflammation; clinical trials now and into the future; and eHealth and mobile technologies. We also expect several other opportunities for networking and enriching experiences, including roundtable discussions, wellness sessions conducted every morning and afternoon, the Clinician’s Curated Tour of Poster Sessions, and the Mentor/Mentee Reception.

As you can see, many things are happening, several initiatives have been ongoing, and several initiatives will be taking off in the near future. All of this would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of many people within the APS membership, leadership, and business office staff. I would like to thank you all for your hard work. I would also like to thank the dedicated business staff at Degnon Associates (our management company) for their outstanding work on APS behalf and for their sustained dedication and support for our activities. We are truly fortunate to be working with such an energetic, thoughtful, and creative group of professionals.

As we move forward in our development of initiatives and in implementation of our strategic goals, APS leadership will continue to count on the spirit of volunteering embraced by APS members. This energy and engagement will assure our success in achieving our goals. On behalf of APS, I invite you all to connect with me, with other members of the Council, or with Committee Chairs to volunteer in any initiatives that fit with your interests and experience. We look forward to working with you all towards greater scientific and clinical impact in psychosomatic medicine.