APA's Education Directorate applauded its success at winning more federal funds for psychologists' education and training--but also sounded a call to maintain and build on those gains at a breakfast at APA's 2001 Annual Convention.
Even in the face of shrinking federal funding for education, APA Education staff enthusiastically updated the audience on its top legislative initiative, Graduate Psychology Education. The program would designate $6 million to train health service psychologists for work with underserved populations, if approved by Congress as APA proposes.
In addition, guest speakers Kristofer J. Hagglund, PhD, and Anne De Biasi, U.S. Senate staff, noted psychology's successes in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship and loan-repayment programs and in the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program, presenting awards to two psychologists for their related contributions. On behalf of APA President Norine G. Johnson, PhD, APA Board of Directors member Laura Barbanel, EdD, presented Robert G. Frank, PhD, the Presidential Citation Award for Advocacy for his fight to "create and win opportunities for psychology graduate education and training," particularly in GME.
GME provides funding for graduate students through Medicare. Frank, past chair of APA's Board of Educational Affairs, has worked with the association to include psychology in the program along with medicine, nursing and other such fields.
The other award went to Hagglund, aide to Sen. Tom Harkin (DIowa). Hagglund has also worked with APA and Congress to bring psychologists equal access to federal programs. In particular, said award presenter Barbara Hanna Wasik, PhD, chair of APA's Board of Educational Affairs, Hagglund has helped open up the NHSC's student-loan repayment and scholarship programs, which subsidize health-service providers' work in underserved rural and urban areas.
The "special award" lauded Hagglund for his efforts to protect "an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to health care for the underserved." However, after accepting the award, Hagglund warned that these and other APA gains are by no means guaranteed. For example, the NHSC reauthorization "hasn't yet had the money appropriated for it," he said.
"That will be a huge challenge this year," said Hagglund, who also is on the faculty at the University of Missouri. "The tax cuts took a lot of the room away from funding other programs....Tom Harkin and his fellow members on the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee are going to have a very difficult time getting all the money for all these programs."
The chilly budgetary climate also poses challenges for the proposed Graduate Psychology Education Program. The program would be housed in the Bureau of Health Professions, an agency that President Bush has targeted for cuts. And even GME is not yet a done deal as it awaits final approval in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies. "We're almost to the top of the mountain," said Frank, "but we're not over the hump."
But, rather than discouraging psychologists from participating in advocacy, said Frank, these challenges should spur them to lobby politicians even harder. "We can't rest," he said. "This is the time when we need more vigilance and effort than ever."