Matters to a Degree

It was 1993 when I first joined APAGS as a graduate student and immediately began my leadership involvement as a campus representative--just five years after APAGS was established. As we celebrate APAGS's 20th anniversary this year and I reflect on our history and possibilities for the future, my thoughts are full of amazing memories and my emotions are strong, yet mixed. This month, I'm leaving APAGS after serving as the Associate Executive Director for eight years. Leaving the organization to which I have been passionately dedicated and that I've developed over the past 15 years is bittersweet. Saying goodbye to the numerous colleagues, friends, leaders, students and members that I've worked with over the years is very difficult and overwhelming.

Beginning next month I'll take the helm as the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and AMSA Foundation. Established in 1950, AMSA is the nation's largest independent association of medical students, and it boasts a membership of 68,000 medical and pre-med students, residents, interns and practicing physicians. I'll oversee the daily operations of the association and foundation with 30 full-time staff and 20 full-time interns and volunteers. I was drawn to AMSA because of their four strategic priorities, including quality, affordable health care for all, addressing disparities in medicine, assuring diversity in medicine and transforming the culture of medical education. I'll have the opportunity to shape our nation's future physician leaders, the medical profession and health care at large.

How does a psychologist trained as a practitioner-scholar end up here? APAGS paved the way; although my trajectory was shaped by my openness to new leadership and career experiences. While earning my degrees in counseling psychology, I always felt a natural pull to leadership positions and professional involvement. I enjoyed and became skilled in psychological service delivery, and like many others, imagined I'd ultimately have a career that combined private practice, teaching and research.

Serving as a regional advocacy coordinator on the APAGS Advocacy Coordinating Team, and then co-chair of the APAGS Advocacy Coordination Team (APAGS-ACT), I became deeply committed to helping graduate students become politically aware and legislatively active, to better serve the public, our clients and the profession. Meeting with my elected officials was empowering and, I learned, very effective in advancing psychology's agenda. I was then elected chair of APAGS, where I had the chance to promulgate my personal agenda to raise awareness and give voice to the complex issues women face in balancing career and family, and engaging in self-care and mentoring. This became the inspiration for my dissertation, where I developed a model for women mentoring women in psychology, and it has endured as a touchstone for my career. While I was on my predoctoral internship at the University of Notre Dame Counseling Center and serving as APAGS chair, I was confronted with a crossroads in my career: stay at Notre Dame for a postdoc, or accept a position at APA overseeing and leading APAGS? Though it wasn't an easy or simple choice, I pursued the latter, and it became a career-defining choice.

With no regrets and great honor, I've been representing APAGS as your first chief executive since 2000. Some of the accomplishments I am most proud of include gaining a seat for APAGS on APA's Board of Directors and a voting seat on the Council of Representatives; helping to develop and launch gradPSYCH; co-authoring and editing Internships in Psychology: The APAGS Workbook for Writing Successful Applications and Finding the Right Fit (APA, 2008); presenting internship workshops; establishing an annual women-supporting-women mentoring program at APA's Annual Convention; writing and editing resource guides on such topics as managing stress and practicing self-care, negotiating graduate school with a disability and thriving as an LGBT student; increasing the APAGS staff and budget; adding leadership positions to the APAGS Committee; adding state advocacy coordinators to APAGS-ACT; and ensuring that APAGS has a strong and influential voice in all of APA's decision making. It's my hope that APAGS will soon win a voting seat on the Board of Directors and our new student journal reviewing and publishing program will take shape.

It's been a sincere privilege serving you. I will miss APAGS deeply. But I won't be far; after all, I'm still a psychologist and APA member. All my best and so long...for now.

Associate Executive Director, APAGS