Winter 2018

Celebrating the Past and Charting the Future: The APS 75th Anniversary in Louisville, KY

Reed CC
Rebecca G. Reed, PhD & Johanna Czamanski-Cohen, PhD

The 2018 Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY will be the culminating celebration of the 75th year of the American Psychosomatic Society. In this Winter 2018 Edition of the Anniversary Newsletter Article series, we highlight anniversary features that you can look forward to at the annual meeting in March and provide a sampling of some historical themes and future perspectives of the Society (with more to come at the 2018 meeting!).

Anniversary Features at the 2018 Meeting  

Several Anniversary features were on display at the 2017 meeting in Spain, including pictures and biographies of a handful of early APS Past Presidents. This year at the 2018 meeting we will showcase pictures and biographies of all Past Presidents. (As you’re reading these biographies, consider how your current research and clinical interests may have grown out of those who came before us!) Additionally, we will feature new anniversary materials provided by the archives of the Oskar Diethelm Library, the DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry, and the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Personal documents from George Engel, correspondence about our Journal from prospective Editors, and other interesting communications between members of the Society will be on display.

At the 2017 meeting we showcased our Anniversary Video Series with scholars including Redford Williams and Karen Matthews. At the 2018 meeting, we’ll showcase from 12 video interviews. This year, we’re also excited to invite you to record your own videos onsite at the meeting! Our goal is to preserve and share APS members’ stories, memories, and experiences using video. Recording your interview at the annual meeting couldn’t be easier: invite a colleague, mentor, trainee, or anyone else you choose to sit down with you in our recording area and share a ~5 minute conversation with each other. We’ll have a list of prepared questions that you can use, or you can ask your own. We look forward to seeing (and sharing) your videos!

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/TE_5pa9NYB4xPP5JNJU4LJMWdg_wuhHHWgW2KnvXBselYniIdi9HmIGo5zILzXN0rcgE2QUj3hVF_uqfGgIIznx7Ixm2cp8uXHbWxhUtlQ23SJozJf78gflxyAWPYL0T3G7Je9-uLast, certain posters, paper sessions, and symposia will be featured as “historically relevant” and will be highlighted in the 2018 program booklet and displayed on the posters themselves with a special 75th Anniversary icon (see right). Be sure to look through the programming and attend those sessions; learning about the historical themes and future orientation of biobehavioral science might generate a new idea!

Highlighting Historical Themes and Future Perspectives

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/JwY3tFwbss6ohOx_OYTzl8B_w-3lcYcsZnICyVhH8evpiwa_10xdlJK-IxWTE45TodN3VbfQ94lht3Jf_ZDFV-z3lxWQFjMGH3dlAgnWmTCEV3KfUmVuVldgdFq6PJkx3dznhKGMOur Society has seen shifts in the way research interests are defined. Different tools, technology, social norms, and theoretical frameworks guide our research while keeping true to the biopsychosocial perspective. Our point of view, which was once somewhat marginalized, is becoming part of mainstream medicine with, for example, the emergence of the personalized medicine trend. Early APS members studied Type A personality while some of our current members focus on the study of hostility. Stress-related peptic ulcers as a result of hormonal exposure were once the focus of studies, and now current members focus on the microbiome. Our Society was formed while the world was recovering from WWII, and the study of war fatigue was at the forefront; current members study PTSD and resilience factors that lead to post-traumatic growth. Our founding Society members provided Classical Psychoanalysis (and some current members still do), using clinical observations and physiological measurements in the lab, whereas new third wave interventions such as mindfulness and meditation are being studied, and “ecological momentary assessment” and “just in time” interventions are at the forefront of investigation. Last, in honor of the inaugural meeting of APS in 1942 that focused on “fatigue” (see Program, right), the theme for this year’s meeting is oriented towards vitality and resilience.

You may notice that many of the historical materials on display at the 2018 meeting feature mainly men (largely due to the nature of the field at the time). Therefore, we want to highlight in this article some of the women that have made APS what it is today. Most likely many of you are familiar with Helen Flanders Dunbar (pictured left) who founded APS in 1942 and was the first Editor-in-Chief of our journal, Psychosomatic Medicine. An interesting tidbit: by the 1930s, Helen Flanders Dunbar discontinued use of her first name “Helen” and https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/5UIqD9ygq2RgqrOJPb2QSeF7Ydg7eV1epz0J_cxu4HGDDJUqMMz71gZlYU2FMjgan8MauUhS5XEWP5T4d7kEw2JgHfSoiP6WMCx_t_SqYPpaKKfs1t6Z744VcocH3i4nYkNvVvYZassumed the name “Dr. Flanders Dunbar”; letters addressed to her as “Dear Sir” appear throughout a collection of APS historical documents by the Oskar Diethelm Library. Following Dr. Flanders Dunbar, the next woman who held a leadership position in APS was Dr. Margaret Singer (pictured right), who was President from 1972-1973. Dr. Singer was also the first PhD-holding President of APS. Another interesting tidbit: Dr. Karen Weihs (APS President 2014-2015) was the first female President with an MD degree. Last, be sure to check out the Anniversary Video Series at the 2018 meeting, which features an interview with Margaret Chesney discussing her early experiences of gender discrimination in graduate school and an interview with Janice Kiecolt-Glaser discussing her experiences as an early career scientist and a pioneering woman in psychoneuroimmunology.

Reflecting on the Society’s future orientations and its goals of Scientific Excellence, Clinical Relevance, and a Vibrant and Diverse Membership, we are reminded of the importance of integrating and balancing mechanistic research and clinical science perspectives to promote the translational science into clinical care practices. Furthermore, APS members are taking a more active role in activism and attempting to affect policy as it relates to science and health care. Many APS members joined the March for Science last year. Efforts are underway to integrate these issues into the annual meeting in Louisville. Additionally, we will have an altruism activity at this year's meeting in which each poster session will include a silent auction on a wide range of local goods, with proceeds going to selected Louisville resiliency-oriented non-profit organizations.

As we look towards the future, we’re also reminded of the importance of mentoring and growing a cadre of vibrant and diverse emerging leaders in the field. On a personal note, the authors of this article want to highlight the esteem mentoring they have received by scholars in APS, and we’re sure that many other members share our sentiment – whether through formal mentoring received in graduate school, postdoctoral positions, the Young Investigator Colloquium, or more informal methods, such as lasting mentoring relationships formed by the Mentor Mentee event at the annual meetings. APS has been and continues to be committed to meeting the needs of its early career investigators. For example, see the image below, which shows a snippet of the APS Program from the 1947 annual conference; formal addresses were made regarding the Medical Curriculum and Undergraduate Training (in addition to Drs. Engel and Romano’s work on the most common type of fainting!).


Some recent changes in APS and a new group exemplify this future orientation of APS to promote the professional development and success of its members. Specifically, recipients of the APS Diversity Travel Award and MD Travel Award will now receive tailored mentoring and advice on their current or planned research, in addition to their travel stipend to attend the annual meeting. Additionally, if you are an early career investigator (e.g., Assistant Professor) or associate member (e.g., student or post-doctoral scholar), we invite you to explore (and, if interested, become a member of) the Emerging Leaders Special Interest Group. Earlier in December 2017, associate and early career APS members received an invitation to complete an Early Career Needs Survey. The Emerging Leaders group will be analyzing these responses and working to incorporate your feedback into APS website changes and future APS conference programming. Please also consider joining the Emerging Leaders at their inaugural Roundtable during the 2018 meeting on Publishing Pros, Practices, and Pitfalls Across Your Career.

As we celebrate APS’ 75th year, we are proud of its history and focused on the future. The Society’s mission to advance and integrate the scientific study of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in health and disease continues to be as important today as it was in its founding year, 75 years ago. We look forward to seeing you in Louisville!