Winter 2017

The American Psychosomatic Society's 75th Anniversary Celebration
Rebecca G. Reed, PhD

The APS Annual and Mid-Year meetings are always events to look forward to, but the meetings for this year will be extra special because we will be celebrating the Society’s 75th Anniversary. The anniversary jubilee will be celebrated throughout the year, beginning with the 75th Annual Meeting in Sevilla, Spain, extending over the 2017 Mid-Year Meeting on October 20 and 21 in Berkeley, California, and ending with the 2018 Annual Meeting. Keep reading below to familiarize yourself with a brief history of early APS, learn about some of the exciting anniversary events and activities planned, and discover ways to get involved in the celebration!  

The Early Years and People of APS
APS’ seventy five years reflect the staying power of our Society, as well as the relevance of and interest in the field of psychosomatic medicine. Donald Oken, Past Editor of our Journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, described in an editorial [1] that the durability of the Society is due in large part to the “bio-psycho-social model” (using the term coined by George Engel, APS Past-President [2]) that guides our research and clinical endeavors. Oken reflected that this approach represented a paradigm shift for medicine. Today, the bio-psycho-social approach is the prevailing conceptual model for all of psychosomatic science.

graphicAPS has been championed by several influential people and its enduring legacy is reflected in the themes of papers that made an impact on the field. To give you a sample of these early APS papers, take a look at the word cloud (pictured at right) that visually represents words from the titles of the top 25 most-highly-cited articles in Psychosomatic Medicine during the first four decades of the Society (1942-1980). The contents of these classic articles reveal surprisingly contemporary topics!

The authors of several of these classic articles were significant contributors to the Society and psychosomatic medicine at large. For example, in his 1980 presidential address to APS, Robert Ader (1932-2011) first used the term psychoneuroimmunology; he challenged the reductionist approach in current immune research and argued for the importance of understanding immune processes “within the context of an integrated system of adaptive mechanisms ultimately regulated by the central nervous system” [3]. Psychiatrist Sidney Cobb (1917-1998), described as one of the Fathers of Social Support research, highlighted the role of strong social ties to protect against potential pathogenic effects of stressful events in his 1976 presidential address to APS [4]. Frances Cohen (1946-2014) made a lasting impact on our understanding of coping, stress, disease, and immunological function. And importantly, Helen Flanders-Dunbar (1902-1959) is credited as one of the primary forces that catalyzed the founding of both our Society and our Journal with her publication Emotions and Bodily Changes in 1935.  

The Anniversary celebrations will be a time to highlight the history of the Society, recognizing the milestones, people, and events that shaped psychosomatic medicine as it is today. The celebration will also be a time to focus on the future of APS, including how we will continue to achieve the Society goals for Scientific Excellence, Clinical Relevance, and a Vibrant and Diverse Membership.  

Anniversary Events…Ready, Go!
To celebrate 75 years, the APS Anniversary Task Force is planning some special events for each of the meetings in 2017/2018. At the 2017 Annual Meeting, Mobilizing Technology to Advance Biobehavioral Science and Health, we will showcase an Anniversary Video Series of interviews with past leaders of APS and influential scholars in psychosomatic medicine. Interviewees will address critical questions pertaining to APS’ past, present, and future, including, for example: What is the most significant psychosomatic medicine finding to date? What current research trends from our field (or those just on the cusp of taking off) have real staying power, and why? What is psychosomatic medicine’s biggest challenge moving forward?

Other Anniversary events planned for the 2017 Annual Meeting will consider the historical origins of APS and its areas of scientific inquiry. The founding of APS occurred during a time of war -- World War II (1939-1945). This created a stimulus for the creation of the Journal and Society by emphasizing interrelations among biological, psychological, and social factors in health and disease. Fittingly, an Anniversary Plenary session will reflect on psychosomatic medicine in times of war, and specifically in the context of the Nuremberg trials. In addition, at various paper sessions, the historical roots of current cutting-edge research will be highlighted in the theme of the session and its abstracts. Many research questions addressed today are traceable to early papers and topics in psychosomatic medicine, including, for example, autonomic patterns and emotions [5] and discrimination, stress, and physical health [6]. Lastly, Christoph Herrmann-Lingen’s Presidential Address at the Sevilla Meeting will elaborate on “APS’ 75th Anniversary: Past, Present and Future of Psychosomatic Movements in an Ever-Changing World”.

Aniversary Award WinnersAt the 2017 Mid-Year Meeting, Emotions in Social Relationships: Implications for Health and Disease, three outstanding individuals will be recognized with the 75th Anniversary Award. The Anniversary Award acknowledges scientific excellence at mid-career and beyond in scientists with expertise in the thematic research area linking affective science, social relationships, and physiological processes or physical illness. Awardees were selected based upon their overall scientific excellence and impact in relation to their career stage. We are very excited to announce that Drs. Naomi Eisenberger, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, and Mary-Frances O’Connor (see above, left to right) have been selected for the 75th Anniversary Awards. Congratulations! Among many other superb presentations planned for this meeting, these awardees will be invited to present their research at the Mid-Year Meeting on October 20-21, 2017.   

Please keep a lookout for other anniversary events to be announced as planning for the 2018 Annual Meeting gets underway.

Want to help celebrate APS’ 75th Anniversary?
We invite you to join in the celebration!  Please send in photos from past meetings, memorabilia, or other remembrances (e.g., memorable stories of events that you recount, early experiences of APS, etc.) to the mailing address or email address below. We will compile these remembrances and showcase them at the annual meetings as well as on APS social media accounts.    

Nakera Dumas
APS 75th Anniversary
6728 Old McLean Village Drive
McLean, VA 22101

We look forward to seeing you at the 2017/2018 meetings as we gather to commemorate 75 years of The American Psychosomatic Society. What better time to reconnect with friends and colleagues while forming new connections and ideas that will propel us into the upcoming years!


1. Oken, D. (1992). Editorial Farewell. Psychosomatic Medicine54, 262-263.

2. Engel G.L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: A challenge for biomedicine. Science, 196, 129-36.

3. Ader, R. (1980). Psychosomatic and Psychoimmunologic Research. Psychosomatic Medicine, 42, 307-321.

4. Cobb, S. (1976). Social support as a moderator of life stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 38, 300-314.

5. Ax, A. F. (1953). The physiological differentiation between fear and anger in humans. Psychosomatic Medicine, 15, 433-442.

6. Harburg, E., Erfurt, J. C., Hauenstein, L. S., Chape, C., Schull, W. J., & Schork, M. A. (1973). Socio-ecological stress, suppressed hostility, skin color, and Black-White male blood pressure: Detroit. Psychosomatic Medicine, 35, 276-296.