Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD

2012 APA Convention Opening Session

Introduction

Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhDWelcome to the website of the American Psychological Association (APA) and particularly to my past presidential page. APA is the world’s oldest and largest organization of psychologists, and I was deeply honored to have served  as the 2012 APA president.

The issues facing psychology today are diverse, complex and numerous; selecting which issues to address was no small task. The APA continually struggles with the multiple needs and demands of its members and the public as it seeks to make the best use of its resources. The recent economic downturn put even greater stress on the association, as it tried to do more with less. 

Strategic Plan

In response, the APA embarked on an effort to develop a strategic plan for the first time in its 100+ year history. The process was inclusive, involving input from many components of the organization, including the elected members of APA’s governing bodies: the Council of Representatives, APA’s boards and committees, and its Board of Directors. The objective was to focus APA’s resources more strategically on high priority goals that were identified by inclusion and consensus. As a member of the APA Board of Directors, I was very fortunate to participate in this process; in my opinion, it was an outstanding success. APA’s strategic plan has three goals:

  1. To maximize organizational effectiveness;

  2. To expand psychology’s role in advancing health; and

  3. To increase recognition of psychology as a science.

I believe the strategic plan captures some of the most important issues facing psychology today. Drawing on my unique and varied experience and perspective, I focused my presidency on helping to make it a reality.

Presidency: 2012

After 35 years in academia, I stepped down as chair of my medical school department to devote my time to research and service. I am grateful for my career as a psychologist. Through my APA governance experiences, I have met many committed fellow psychologists. I have enjoyed the rewards of patient care and mentoring students, and the intellectual stimulation of legislative advocacy and the scientific enterprise. I have been blessed, and service to psychology has been my way of giving back. I was honored to serve as 2012 president of the American Psychological Association.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF, 143KB)

Biography

Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD, ABPP, is an APA fellow and distinguished research professor at Florida State University (FSU) College of Medicine. She received her BA in psychology from Cornell University and her PhD in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She was director of the Center for Pediatric and Family Studies at the University of Florida Health Science Center until 2002, when she became the chair of the department of medical humanities and social sciences at FSU College of Medicine, the first new medical school to be established in 25 years.

Science

Thanks to continued research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bennett Johnson’s work has focused on medical regimen adherence, childhood diabetes, pediatric obesity, and the psychological impact of genetic screening on children and families. She has received awards for her research contributions from the Society of Pediatric Psychology, the Association of Medical School Psychologists and the American Diabetes Association.

Practice

A licensed psychologist certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) for more than 30 years, she has seen children and families in a pediatric diabetes clinic as part of an integrated multidisciplinary care team. She worked with the American Diabetes Association to develop standards for the psychological care of patients with diabetes and worked with the APA Practice Directorate to establish the Health and Behavior CPT codes, permitting psychological services to be reimbursed as part of the medical benefit.

Education

Bennett Johnson has chaired 56 completed master's theses and doctoral dissertations and has been instrumental in developing an innovative, integrated biopsychosocial curriculum for Florida State University's College of Medicine. She has received awards for her mentorship from both the McKnight Foundation and APA's Div. 54 (Pediatric Psychology).

International

As past co-chair of the psychosocial studies committee of The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) study for NIH, she was responsible for all psychological components of this international study. The National Academy of Science report on International Collaborations in Behavioral Social Sciences Research was a product of her work as chair of the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Psychological Science. She was previously a member of the International Union of Science Planning Group on Health and Wellbeing in the Changing Urban Environment (PDF, 2.4MB).

Leadership and Service to Psychology

Bennett Johnson has served as president of the Society of Pediatric Psychology (Div. 54), president of Div. 38 (Health Psychology) and an APA Council Representative from Florida and Div. 38. She chaired the APA Board of Professional Affairs and Board of Scientific Affairs and was a member of  the APA Board of Directors. Her leadership and service have been acknowledged by awards from the Florida Psychological Association, Div. 38 and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

Health Policy/Advocacy

Serving as a Robert Wood Johnson health policy fellow for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, she helped develop Clinton's response to the mental health needs of New York City children after 9/11. The Lifespan Respite Care Act, which Johnson wrote during her fellowship, became law in 2006.
2012 Initiatives

There were several overriding issues that were important to me in developing my APA presidential initiatives. First, all of the initiatives were consistent with the APA strategic plan to (1) maximize organizational effectiveness, (2) expand psychology’s role in advancing health, and (3) increase recognition of psychology as a science. I am committed to the strategic plan and wanted to use the office of the president, including those resources dedicated to presidential initiatives, in the service of APA’s strategic plan.

Second, initiatives that were collaborations between two or more groups or organizations were preferred. I still believe that APA can have a greater impact if it collaborates with other groups working toward common goals. I am interested in collaborations between APA and other organizations but also collaborations between groups within the APA family.

Third, I was not married to a specific format for my presidential initiatives (e.g., a task force). Rather, I sought to encourage many groups interested in one or more of my presidential initiatives to develop ideas to make them a reality. I was happy to use the office of the president in any way I could to promote many groups’ activities in these arenas. The more collaborations and initiatives that were generated, the better.

Presidential Initiative 1: Interdisciplinary Science and Practice

Science is becoming more and more interdisciplinary -- the really hard questions we face as a society cannot be answered by a single discipline. In my view, psychological science is underrepresented on interdisciplinary research teams and psychology is training too few scientists to participate effectively in these teams.

On the practice side, health care is moving to models of integrated care delivery. We know that patients are cared for most effectively when their needs are addressed through patient-centered care interdisciplinary teams. Integrated care will require psychologists to practice side by side with other health providers. In my opinion, too few psychologists are trained to deliver services as part of integrated care teams and too few integrated care teams include a psychologist.

This initiative was consistent with goals No. 2 (expand psychology’s role in advancing health) and No. 3 (increase recognition of psychology as a science) of APA’s strategic plan.

Presidential Initiative 2: Obesity

Obesity is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. and is expected to become the leading cause within the next few years. Because of obesity, the U.S. is facing a diabetes epidemic; 33 percent of boys and 39 percent of girls born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetimes. The prevalence of diabetes in minority populations is even higher, with 50 percent of African-American women expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime. The costs associated with obesity are likely to bankrupt the health care system and U.S. life expectancy will decrease for the first time in a century. Psychology needs to become a bigger player in society’s efforts to address this major threat to human health and well-being.

This initiative was also consistent with goals No. 2 (expand psychology’s role in advancing health) and No. 3 (increase recognition of psychology as a science) of APA’s strategic plan.

Presidential Initiative 3: Engaging the Next Generation of Psychologists

The median age of APA members in 2010 was 54.3 years and their median number of years post-degree was 20.6. The percent of APA membership that consists of early career psychologists is declining and few early career psychologists join APA divisions. Unless we engage the next generation of psychologists, APA will no longer be the influential organization it is today.

This initiative was consistent with goal No. 1 (maximizing organizational effectiveness) of APA’s strategic plan.

Presentations
Presentations delivered by Suzanne Bennett Johnson were given around the country and internationally. Each covered issues facing psychology, including the need to expand psychology’s role in advancing health and increasing the recognition of psychology as a science.