First and foremost, I hope you and your loved ones are taking good care of yourselves and staying well. This is a time of great stress for a lot people, especially Americans as we deal with uncertainty regarding COVID-19, as well as turmoil over racism and injustice. These past few months have gotten me thinking about just how much psychology can contribute to our understanding of pandemics, our reactions (e.g., anxiety, hoarding, racism), and how we come together or do not come together to fight them effectively. Additionally, we’ve contributed scholarly work to understanding racism and bias. We, psychologists, have such a valuable role to play in our close relationships, at our workplaces, our communities, and beyond. I’m very proud of the impactful work being done by health service, applied, academic, and research psychologists. Given the discourse around racism and justice we are having in the backdrop of a serious pandemic, I acknowledge the following updates may seem quite trivial.
One unfortunate result of COVID-19 was the cancellation of the annual VA Psychology Leadership Conference (VAPLC) Div. 18 cosponsors. After weighing the pros and cons, the conference planning committee determined that cancellation was the most responsible decision. We’ll look forward to coming together again in 2021. In the meantime, there was a two-hour virtual event on July 30 to honor the VAPLC award recipients and discuss current events. With APA going virtual this year, the VA Section is working with the Div. 18 program chair, Monica Roy, PhD, to schedule our business meeting with presentation of annual awards and support other Div. 18 programming. More details to come.
Speaking of awards, our Awards Selection Committee is currently hard at work reviewing nomination materials for our annual VA Section awards. We received many nominations again this year, so I’m sure they have a tough job ahead, and I appreciate their volunteering to help with our acknowledgement of outstanding colleagues. I know many had planned to also acknowledge their fellow colleagues during the second annual VA Psychology Recognition Week (April 20-24, 2020). COVID-19 physical distancing precautions limited celebrations. Sites had to be even more creative in finding ways to recognize psychologists. APA CEO Arthur Evans, PhD, was thoughtful again this year and recorded this video message for us. I’m also grateful for the support of Stacey Pollack, PhD, at the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and VA Section member David Topor, for his hard work promoting this event.
The VA Section continued to offer more educational webinars this past fall and early spring. Recent webinars have focused on professional development (board certification) and veterans programming in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (thanks to our Criminal Justice Section colleagues for helping to arrange this). Our webinars also tackled timely topics of workplace violence prevention and lethal means safety. These continuing education offerings are available to all Div. 18 members, and I’m very pleased to announce several of these programs are now available as home study courses. This makes it possible for those who aren’t able to attend live webinars to earn continuing education credit by viewing recordings of past webinars, completing the webinar evaluation, and passing the post-test. A huge thanks to Abby Lott, PhD, ABPP, and Tanecia Blue, PhD, ABPP, for all their efforts to bring this membership benefit to fruition.
Two other recent VA Section developments include the “Mid-career Psychologist Series” and the “Starting the Conversation Series.” The “Mid-career Psychologist Series” is held monthly and coordinated by Charlotte McCloskey, PhD, in collaboration with colleagues from our sister organization Association of VA Psychologist Leaders (AVAPL). This undertaking came about as a response to conversations held at the networking lunches for mid-career psychologists at the VAPLC the past few years. Matters predominantly experienced by mid-career psychologists include identifying what’s next in their career journey, opportunities for advancement, leadership development, and negotiating work and family life. The monthly meetings focused on these topics have been well-attended and well-received.
The “Starting the Conversation Series” is led by Asale Hubbard, PhD, and is also in collaboration with AVAPL (more specifically, the Psychologists of Color special interest group). This webinar series promotes discussions on diversity and is specifically geared toward psychologist leaders. Last fall’s webinar titled “Psychology Leadership Engagement in Diversity and Inclusion Practice” was well-received. Upcoming webinars from this series continue this July with “Racism, Systemic Oppression, and Health Disparities: How to Engage in Effective Allyship and Build Anti-racist Practices” on July 13 and “Working with Race-Based Stress and Trauma” on July 20. More details about these educational opportunities will be announced on the Div.18 listserv, so stay tuned.
One of APA’s main priorities is communicating psychology to the world. This has also been a priority of mine since becoming VA Section chair with respect to advocating for veterans health care and VA psychologists. One way to achieve this is through social media, as it provides a platform to communicate not only with our professional colleagues, but also the public at large. I want to give a big kudos to our new social media representative Sharon Malinowski. She has only served in this role for four months, but she has already increased Twitter followers by 23%. By the way, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
I’m also excited to report an increase in student members’ involvement in VA Section. We now have our own student representative Rachel Ward. If you haven’t already done so, I strongly encourage you to check out our special issue written by Ms. Ward titled, “Path to the VA: Perspectives and Advice from VA Psychology Leaders.” While geared toward students, I think this issue is relevant to us all, regardless of career status. Rachel has established a listserv just for student members of the VA Section in order to facilitate relevant announcements to and communication between students. She is also collaborating with other student representatives to consider feasibility of hosting a virtual networking event during APA.
As you can see, our section continues to be highly active thanks to our dedicated members who contribute their time, expertise, and skills to this organization. In addition to those named above, I’d like to introduce and express gratitude to our other leaders: Gayle Iwamasa, PhD, HSPP (chair-elect), Meghna Patel, PhD, ABPP (secretary/treasurer), Whitney Stubbs, PhD (membership representative), Ashley Schnakenberg Martin, PhD (membership representative), and Maryke Harrison, PhD (newsletter editor). I also want to thank Josh Rinker, PsyD, our early career representative for his continued service and Monica Roy, PhD, for help with our educational offerings. Finally, there are many others who help with the annual awards selection, contribute to the newsletter, and attend our webinars and monthly meetings. Thank you.
Finally, this will be my final newsletter article as VA Section chair. I have truly enjoyed leading this section for the past two years. I have appreciated the opportunity to work with so many awesome people across the country and the valuable lessons in leadership. I look forward to beginning my term as president-elect soon, as I will be able to serve the division more broadly. The VA Section has a strong leader in our next chair, Gayle Iwamasa, PhD, HSPP. I can’t wait to see how our section continues to flourish under her leadership, and I will support the mission however I can.
Here’s to better days ahead.