This is my final column as APA president, perhaps a suitable occasion to reflect on the accomplishments of my term. There might well be some, but I will resist the temptation to decide what is and is not an accomplishment and whether any has my stamp. I would rather convey what I have been trying to accomplish in the hope that others build on these priorities.
My activities (e.g., initiatives, task forces, messages) were guided by several interrelated priorities:
1. Involve diverse interests, constituencies and members. One goal of mine was to engage and mobilize multiple interests across the full range of our field's rich variety of topics and areas of specialization.
2. Build on strengths within APA. Many activities (e.g., communicating about our science, working on violence prevention, improving patient care) are ongoing within the organization. I thought that building and extending these activities would increase the likelihood of having an enduring impact.
3. Begin with—rather than "add on"—diversity, culture and identity. There are scores of ethnic cultural groups within our own society and thousands in the world. We are or ought to be interested in psychology for the entire world and the many ways in which identity is manifest. This necessarily begins with training in multicultural and international perspectives in the core of our academic, practical and research experience and any activities that we promote as an organization.
4. Reach out to society to have impact on felt problems. As a profession, we must give greater attention to major problems of society to which our research speaks. This is a time in which many sciences are addressing critical issues, such as climate change, an aging population, crime, war, poverty, and local and world disparities in health care and education. Can we mobilize and extend our work to make a greater difference in public life, and can we show (and not merely say) that we are relevant?
5. Clarify the identity and contribution of psychology as a field. We are not well understood as a discipline, a problem I trace in part to the heterogeneity of our topics and to the pre-eminence in the public mind of the pop (and mom) psychology retailed by talk show hosts and the like. I made it a high priority to communicate what we do and who we are to the public, policymakers, scientists in other professions and perhaps most importantly to ourselves.
Much of APA's work focuses on our own issues and internal processes as a discipline and a profession. I began with a different emphasis, with the belief that outcome necessarily reflects process, but process does not necessarily lead to outcome. There are significant global problems before us that directly affect the quality and quantity of life for our fellow human beings. I would like to see more direct efforts on our part—policy initiatives, large-scale programs, partnering with other sciences and professions—in which psychology can be shown to make a difference. We do have an impact, but a guiding question of our own self-governance should always be, Can we do more, better or different to extend our reach and have impact both for our members and for the public at large?
As APA members, we occasionally wonder what we are getting for our dues. I finally have an answer: a bargain. The more astute question is not what we get for our dues, but what we would lose by not having a vibrant organization on call on behalf of our profession and the public. APA has a deeply committed dream team of staff and members who work endlessly on sustaining, advancing and communicating about our profession and discipline.
The CEO and his office, Executive Management Group, Council of Representatives, the Board of Directors, and so many boards, committees and interest groups are remarkable in their work and in their sacrifice (e.g., many weekends away from their families, late-night meetings, repeated travel and endless artery-coating meals).
Our work matters: We do make a difference on issues critical to our society, such as providing services for our returning soldiers and their families, achieving mental health parity, securing research funding for our science and ensuring quality psychology education from high school through doctoral levels. It has been an amazing privilege to serve as president and work with staff and members and an absolute delight to meet so many of you.
Thank you. Farewell and fare well.
Letters to the Editor
- Send us a letter