It is a privilege to serve as your president in 2013. It is also a great responsibility. APA is a huge and complex organization. When I served on the Board of Directors in the mid-'90s, APA was one organization with about 300 employees, a budget of $40 million and a policymaking body — the Council of Representatives — of around 100 members. Today, the president and the Board of Directors are responsible for governing two corporations, APA and the APA Practice Organization (APAPO), with almost 600 employees, a $120 million budget and a council of about 175 members. Being APA president is close to a full-time job.
But, along with the responsibility of the presidency are the benefits. One of the most important is the prerogative to develop and implement a reasonable number of presidential initiatives, most usually activities that support the goals of APA's strategic plan — to maximize organizational effectiveness, expand psychology's role in advancing health and increase recognition of psychology as a science. To that end, I am promoting three initiatives.
The first initiative is to ensure that psychologists are in the forefront in providing services to military personnel, veterans and their families, as well as military members who have been sexually harassed in the service. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be winding down, but the mental health problems of their participants are not. One estimate is that more than 168,000 veterans of those wars have post-traumatic stress disorder. The same source estimates that the suicide rate for these veterans is 38 per 100,000, compared with 11.26 per 100,000 civilian Americans. I am primarily implementing this initiative by scheduling 20 to 30 hours of programming at APA's 2013 Annual Convention in Hawai'i on innovative research and practice related to serving the groups I have identified above.
My second initiative is more future-oriented. By 2040, it is estimated that non-Hispanic whites will be in the minority in the United States. By 2023, non-Hispanic white children will be in the minority. Our profession, however, is not as prepared as it should be to serve what will become the burgeoning majority population in the forthcoming decades. As APA's Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice and Organizational Change for Psychologists (2003) point out, "ethnic minority students are underrepresented at all levels of psychology, but most particularly at the doctoral level." Although the Multicultural Guidelines stress the need for culturally sensitive practitioners and researchers, there is a dearth of doctoral students who have come from Middle Eastern, Asian, African, Caribbean, and Central and South American cultures before they or their families emigrated to the United States. To stimulate more diversity, I plan to identify innovative doctoral programs that have admitted students from diverse cultures. They will be recognized at APA's Annual Convention in a special program cosponsored by APA's Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs.
My third initiative implements APA's mission to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives. The achievement of that goal depends on the stimulation, production and dissemination of science. Despite the significant efforts of APA's Science Directorate, we continue either to fail to attract or lose our scientists to other associations. Thus, when I was a candidate for APA president, I pledged to do what I could to attract and retain academicians and scientists as members. I am fulfilling that pledge by asking a group of eminent scientists who have served as APA presidents, senior scientists, early career scientists and graduate students associated with science-oriented doctoral programs to attend the Board of Directors' retreat in April to brainstorm ways to accomplish those goals.
These initiatives are not panaceas and will not solve all of psychology's problems, but I hope they indicate a desire to advance psychology as a science and profession.
To learn more about APA's new president, read this month's "Questionnaire" with Dr. Bersoff.
Letters to the Editor
- Send us a letter