Feature column

From the President’s Desk

President Mark Greenwald, PhD addresses goals and objectives for 2011.

By Mark Greenwald

I’m humbled by your trust and delighted to serve on your behalf as the 42nd President of APA’s Division 28. The field of psychopharmacology and substance abuse is vibrant, thanks to many talented individuals in Division 28 who are making stellar contributions. I’m extremely fortunate to be working with a great cast of characters this year. Together, we promise to act in your best interests and to the best of our abilities.

Executive Committee Changes

We are deeply indebted to Hendree Jones for providing enthusiastic, creative and productive leadership as President during 2010. She spearheaded and kept laser-focus on our much- needed effort to increase membership with an emphasis on Early Career Psychologists (ECPs); that task involves “thinking outside the box” and investing time in reaching out to many others. Hendree is an excellent role model within our organization and in her new, more relaxed, role as Past- President she will continue to make important contributions to our division. As discussed below, the goal of increasing membership and particularly ECP recruitment, engagement and retention will continue unabated. The intent of this initiative is to increase the long- term vitality and influence of our science-based division within APA and for the improvement of public health.

Other valuable and wonderful individuals completed their rounds of service effective 12/31/10: We are extremely thankful to John Roll (Past-President), Mark Smith (Secretary), Matt Johnson (2010 Convention Program Chair), Bill Stoops (Newsletter Editor), Stacey Sigmon (Member-At-Large), Nicole Avena (Membership), and Jennifer Brielmaier (Student Representative). We are grateful because you have donated your precious time and energy toward helping Division 28 serve its membership.

And in with the new ...I’m pleased to welcome Rick Bevins (President-Elect, who is also our Representative to APA for Psychology as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics [STEM] discipline), Bill Stoops (Secretary, 2011-2013), Larry Carter (2011 Convention Program Chair), Kelly Dunn (Newsletter Editor, 2011-2013; serving double duty as an ECP Representative), Ryan Vandrey (Membership Officer, 2011-2013), Chana Akins (Awards Officer, 2011-2013), Diomaris Jurecska (Student Representative, 2011-2012), and Mark Smith (Liaison to Science Directorate, 2011-2012). We’ve already begun this year on an exciting and productive note.

Executive Committee Stability

Several members have been contributing tireless and substantial effort for many years; they are stalwart but not unsung heroes of Division 28! Thank you to Jane Acri, who is in her 15th year of service as Treasurer (since 1996). Trailing close behind, but equally valued, we thank Ron Wood (Electronic Communication Officer since 1997), and Vic Laties (Webmaster since 1997). Finally, thanks to Marlyne Kilbey, our Continuing Education Chair since 2005. Your skills, expertise and wisdom help to ensure the smooth and productive continuity of Division 28.

This Year’s Objectives

There are many important opportunities and objectives that could be addressed during 2011, but – given the brief term of office – only a few can be done well. These will be: (1) enhancing membership and ECP recruitment, engagement and retention; (2) increasing the quantity and quality of our communication; and (3) strong, persistent advocacy for our science. If you have questions about any of these initiatives, or you wish to get involved, please contact me by email.

Objective 1: Enhancing Membership and Early Career Psychologist (ECP) Recruitment, Engagement and Retention

Two longer-term trends and structural problems confront our division and APA generally. First, despite concerted efforts, divisional membership has been declining. We do not fully understand all the reasons why this has occurred; however, there are broader trends in our society that people are less likely to join organizations (e.g. for economic reasons during recession, personal expectations and social processes that influence group affinity) and for fewer people to renew membership (e.g. members may not be gaining opportunities to communicate, participate, and develop an identity within the organization, or they perceive that the organization can fulfill its mission without them). This suggests that we need to focus on three behaviors: joining, engagement, and retention. To promote these behaviors, we need to couple incentives with persuasive arguments that Division 28 offers excellent opportunities and is a solid investment for the individual and a means to cultivate his/her professional identity within the field.

Second, the mean age of members has been increasing. Clearly, this trend is due to lack of new members. However, thanks to specific interventions during the past year, Division 28 has regained momentum and excitement toward reversing that trend by focusing on ECPs. APA President-Elect Suzanne Bennett-Johnson indicated at the recent Division Leadership Conference that she plans to focus on ECP engagement. To remain ahead of the curve, we will continue this momentum on developing membership and ECP engagement, including specific efforts to recruit and engage under-represented populations. This latter emphasis is responsive to APA-wide demographic trends. Recruitment, engagement and retention of ECPs and under-represented populations are optimally addressed using a combination of “top-down” methods (e.g. highlighting relevant advocacy efforts or convention programming; see preliminary convention program information in this newsletter) and “bottom-up” approaches (e.g. social networking; see description of our ongoing efforts below). Identifying individuals from under-represented populations is not easy, however, because most new members do not indicate on their APA applications their race/ethnicity. For this reason, personal outreach to these individuals remains vitally important and is part of the plan this year.

Incentive #1: New Members Get First-Year Free

The first incentive I’m pleased to announce is that Division 28 will offer free first year membership to all incoming members (across-the-board, not just ECPs). We have reviewed data from an APA pilot project (conducted among several divisions) that demonstrated the potential benefit of this strategy. Membership in Division 28 is relatively inexpensive, and student affiliates (currently numbering about 205 individuals) do not pay. Nonetheless, we want to lower barriers to joining. Once members are “in the door”, we wish to involve them in activities to develop an identity with us. Although the division’s budget does not benefit acutely from this approach, APA’s data indicate that the proportion of first-year members who continue will provide a longer-term benefit in dues. At the same time, we will be contacting potential Corporate Affiliates, whose contributions may help to offset this initiative.

To meet this goal, we eagerly seek your ideas and connections. Specifically, we need you to “get the word out” among your trainees and colleagues about free first-year membership. We will post this information through all our electronic communication channels but current members are more likely to view this content than non-members. So, despite the strengths of our web resources, our current members remain a valuable resource in re-directing this opportunity to their associates. If you know ECPs or other individuals who seem like a good fit with Division 28, including individuals from under-represented populations, please inform them of this incentive and have them contact our ECP Representatives Kelly Dunn, email and Sarah Tragesser, email, or our Membership Officer Ryan Vandrey, email. Thank you.

Incentive #2: Current Members Can Win Prizes by Recruiting New and Returning Members 

We will hold a Division 28 social mixer at the CPDD conference in Hollywood, Florida at the Westin Diplomat Hotel. This event will be held on Wednesday, June 22. Please join us in our ocean facing suite (room number to be announced) starting at 6:00 pm.

All members are invited, and all are strongly encouraged to bring a "buddy" to the mixer. Specifically, "buddies" should be APA members at the post-doctoral level and above but not yet Division 28 members, as well as lapsed division members who wish to renew their division membership. Each "buddy" who submits an application for membership in Division 28 at the mixer will earn the current member one prize drawing. Current members can earn gift certificate cards (presented on the spot!) for small, medium and large prizes using the "fishbowl procedure". The more "buddies" you bring, the more chances to win!

Please plan to join the fun and help us recruit fresh talent!

ECP Engagement: I will briefly mention two initiatives this year toward improving ECP engagement. First, at this year’s APA convention in Washington, D.C., we will devote a full session to ECP scientific presentations, to showcase the excellent work of our young scientists. We hope that you will attend and enjoy that session. Second, as our APA Science Directorate representatives have noted, we have a young, bright and involved Executive Committee – more so than most other APA divisions. This reflects our commitment to include, involve and promote the activity of ECPs. Importantly, we are looking to “deputize” more individuals to assist with specific tasks. So, if you are interested in helping with recruitment – for example, getting involved by serving as a liaison to under-represented individuals, or providing creative ideas for reaching out to and engaging those individuals – then please contact Kelly, Sarah, Ryan, or me.

Member Retention: We are rightly proud of all our members who, in many cases, have provided amazing service to our community over the years. That is a real blessing. The emphasis on ECP issues, therefore, should not be taken to reflect any loss of interest in retaining our existing members. In fact, the experience and wisdom our existing members plays a very important role in regard to expressing opinions in defense of our profession (see Objective 3, below). If you know anyone whose divisional membership is lapsing or has recently lapsed, please encourage him/her to renew membership in the division.

Objective 2: Increasing the Quantity and Quality of our Communication

We are vigorously working to improve information technology/resources – including electronic communication and social media – to (1) create a dynamic, integrated and cooperative community of scientists, (2) highlight the significance of our divisional work, and (3) make our scientific contributions and accomplishments more visible to, and consumable by, the public. With the assistance of APA and our divisional mavens, Ron Wood and Vic Laties, we are converting our website to a more high-tech, information-rich and navigable platform. We have two new official division logos, which appear for the first time in this newsletter. Within APA, our division is on the leading edge of these changes and (thanks to Ron and Vic) we have multiple communication outlets on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and Ning. These novel features should contribute to achieving the first goal of attracting ECPs, who may be preferentially drawn to such technology/resources. However, I strongly encourage everyone to become part of the conversation! We will be routinely piping content to all these electronic channels; feel free to use whatever platform suits you best. If you have questions or comments about our electronic communication tools or web site, please contact Ron Wood by email or Vic Laties by email, respectively.

Thanks to excellent effort and organization by our Convention Program Chair Larry Carter, we’re able to include in this newsletter issue “insider information” about our division’s program for the APA convention (Aug 4-7) in D.C. Normally, program content is not made available until later in the year. However, we recognize that members prefer to have information at the earliest convenience to plan their convention travel and activities. Although we do not have final dates and times for sessions, we are publicizing the content (and tentative dates/times for certain events) at the convention. We hope this information proves useful to you and your colleagues/trainees to attend what promises to be a lively and informative scientific exchange. This year’s location in D.C. also affords the improved chance for division members and affiliates to discuss their ideas with NIH staff (who often cannot attend when the convention is located farther away). I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. Please let others know, and encourage them to attend.

Objective 3: Strong, Persistent Advocacy for Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse Science

This year and for several years beyond, there will be at least four important challenges and opportunities at the federal level, all of which require vigorous and unrelenting advocacy for our scientific enterprise.

First, we have been in the midst of stagnant science budgets and, based on recent developments in Congress, now there is the real likelihood of reduced funding for NIH and NSF. To the extent that across-the-board cuts are enacted, we are operating in a zero-sum game in competition with other constituencies. For instance, President Obama recently proposed a $1 billion investment in NIH to create the National Center for Advancing Translational Science, intended to accelerate medication development. While this is clearly relevant to work that many psychopharmacologists perform, funding for this proposed center is now in jeopardy. On this and related issues, we need to lobby our representatives often and persuasively to have them support appropriations decisions that maintain funding for our science. Part of this issue, which APA is making a priority, is promoting Psychology as a STEM discipline. At every opportunity, we will be distributing electronic communications to members. Please use every opportunity to make a timely and persuasive defense of our profession during this difficult period. It does not have to take much time; brief communications are effective.

Second, congressional representatives have a history of interfering with the scientific peer review process. The APA Science Directorate’s Government Relations Office (GRO) is our key ally – one of their featured policy areas is substance abuse – and a huge asset in combating politically motivated incursions into the scientific peer review process. As indicated in another column in this newsletter, recent efforts by members of the House of Representatives in regards to the first legislative bill (H.R. 1) have made this plainly clear. Please read the Science Policy and Insider News (SPIN) news updates from our Directorate to stay informed about these and other advocacy issues, and please respond to calls for action whenever possible. The Science GRO has easily- navigated web links that enable you to get information and respond quickly. It is critical to realize that our division is a team and our efforts are more forceful when all members act together.

Third, as you know, NIDA and NIAAA are merging; however, it remains uncertain how the merger will be implemented. According to NIH Director Francis Collins, the expected timeline for presenting the task force’s detailed reorganization plan is this summer, and the expected date of implementation for the new Institute/Center (IC) will be in 2013. APA is working closely with other substance abuse-related science organizations (including plenty of psychopharmacologists) to promote consensus on principles for reorganization, and sent a letter (PDF, 195KB )to the task force co-chairs. We are all stakeholders: You can submit your comments on the proposed IC at the Feedback NIH website.

Fourth, health care reform began to be implemented in 2010, despite some persisting political opposition as well as challenges due to its many complex provisions. APA has made a priority of advancing psychology’s role in public health, which intersects with health care reform. Health care reform largely involves federal and state-level administrative changes, generally much more than leveraging scientific advances. However, one piece implemented in 2010 involves a Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research, a patient-centered outcomes research institute that compares the cost- and clinical-effectiveness of treatments. Within this larger context, we need to highlight advances in psychopharmacology and substance abuse research as they relate to improving health care. Office-based opioid treatment (OBOT) and screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) in primary care are fine examples of recent advances that have come from Division 28 members’ work. Toward this end, we request that members send us relevant materials that we can post on our web site and other communication channels. We also encourage our members to submit effective therapies that have been developed to the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). The objective is to provide resources, which scientists, patients, health care providers and policymakers can use to become informed about the public health significance and impact of our work.

Finally, we have set election slates for the next round of Division 28 officers (see candidates’ statements in this newsletter), and you will soon have the opportunity to vote. I strongly encourage you to exercise your member rights by voting in the upcoming election. It is very important that you have a say in your representatives.

Division 28 remains strong due to the creativity and accomplishments of its members, and their contributions to scientific leadership. I’m amazed and thankful for the wealth of talent we have, and I strongly encourage all of you to engage in division activities throughout the year using our electronic resources, and to attend and participate at the convention. I look forward to assisting our work on your behalf, but encourage you to advocate for our research. Please let me know how you think Division 28 can serve your needs and those of our members generally. I wish you all a productive year, and look forward to your thoughts and suggestions. We can’t do it without you!