From the CEO

Part of APA’s mission is to advance the communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society. One important way that APA strives to accomplish this mission is by nominating psychologists to advisory panels of the federal government and to nongovernmental research institutes, such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which is the health arm of the National Academies of Science.

The health-care reform act, signed into law last March, established a number of new advisory panels to provide guidance to the federal government on a wide range of health-related issues, including comparative effectiveness research, the behavioral risks that underlie costly diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, and the health-care work force. These include the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute; the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health; and the National Health Care Workforce Commission. The commission, for example, helps coordinate among branches of government and encourages technological and environmental innovations.

APA recently nominated 15 psychologists to serve on these three advisory committees created by the health-care reform law. In addition, APA recommended five psychologists to join the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and psychologists to serve on each of three health-related advisory committees focused on the National Health Services Corps, Minority Health and Interdisciplinary Community-Based Linkages.

For decades, APA has successfully nominated psychologist experts to serve on federal agency advisory panels, including those at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). For example, there are 10 psychologists serving on SAMHSA’s six advisory panels. I also recently accepted an invitation to join the National Advisory Council for the National Institute on Aging at NIH.

These agencies look to psychologists to weigh in on issues ranging from basic research to prevention strategies to effective services to public education campaigns. Advisory group members typically make recommendations regarding federal programs and policies and review grant applications.

Policymakers also frequently reach out to IOM, which sponsors expert consensus committees, such as Leading Health Indicators for Healthy People 2020 and Advancing Pain Research, Care and Treatment. These committees are often funded by the federal government to provide evidence to inform critical health decisions. Many of these panels have benefited or would benefit from psychological expertise. Fulfilling APA’s directive to advance just such expert knowledge, APA senior staff nominated 54 psychologists to five key IOM panels, a number of whom have been appointed.

When these federal agencies or IOM announce openings on their advisory committees, APA senior staff solicits input from experts and relevant APA governance groups and divisions to compile a list of psychologists who would be well-suited to provide their input on the issues at hand. In addition to special expertise, APA considers a number of factors when formulating the nominee list, including promoting diversity within the panels. APA also responds strategically in assessing the numbers of psychologists to nominate for a specific opening. Although APA nominates these individuals, they do not represent APA, nor are they beholden to APA. Yet the association is committed to providing whatever assistance would be helpful to them in fulfilling their responsibilities.

As the member lists for these committees become finalized over the course of the year, APA looks forward to seeing more psychologists appointed to these influential advisory panels. Nominating psychological experts to these positions not only provides greater visibility for psychology as a field but offers psychology’s invaluable expertise on a wide range of important societal issues. As our nation’s health-care system undergoes reform, it becomes increasingly important for psychology’s voice to be heard by those in positions to apply psychological knowledge to critical decisions pertaining to health-related research, services, training and prevention.