President's Column

Being president of APA has been the best job I've ever had. It's been an honor and a privilege to serve. Even during the most challenging times, I've never regretted for a moment my decision to run for the presidency. In this final column, I would like to describe what I view as my four main accomplishments, and also say where I believe I was less successful than I would have liked.

Successes

  • My presidential theme: unity. My overarching goal was to help unify all of the many wonderful groups that contribute to APA. I argued that the frictions among them derived from failures in communication, and nothing more. Indeed, I have found psychologists in all of APA's many groups willing and eager to work together for a common good. We all need each other. I sincerely hope that all APA groups view me as having served them equally and impartially.

  • Initiatives. As part of my unity theme, I created five presidential initiatives, an embracing unity initiative and four further initiatives, one corresponding to each of the APA directorates: education, practice, public interest and science. Three main kinds of outcomes emerged from these initiatives.

The first is a grant for almost half a million dollars to APA to fund further exploration of our education initiative on the "other three Rs": reasoning, resilience and responsibility. The second outcome, an outgrowth of the initiatives, is six edited or co-edited books, with one corresponding to each initiative, except for practice, from which two books emerged. The third outcome is a set of changes in the way some things are done at APA. For example, we worked on developing ways to handle savage reviews of articles submitted to APA journals. We also sought to provide relevant information to instructors of students in clinical psychology in preparation for prescription privileges for psychologists.

  • Task forces. I proposed or co-proposed, and APA's Board of Directors approved, several task forces that I believe have done laudable work. One of the task forces, which I chaired, produced a proposal passed at the August APA Council of Representatives meeting for a model to reorganize aspects of APA governance.

A second task force, which I also chaired, discussed the creation of an audiovisual archive of interviews with distinguished psychologists who have made significant and seminal contributions to the various aspects of psychology. If council funds this project, these interviews will provide a treasure trove of information for future students and, indeed, all psychologists.

A third task force was to consider how APA gives awards. This task force provided sensible suggestions for enhancing an already carefully crafted process.

  • APA's Annual Convention. This year, we faced great challenges because of the SARS epidemic in Toronto. Nevertheless, we ended up holding the convention after the SARS outbreak ended, and nearly 9,000 people attended. We had many wonderful events. For example, in his keynote address, Stephen White informed us brilliantly and with wit of his transition from being a practicing psychologist to becoming a full-time mystery writer. I heard from many that they considered it to be among our most successful conventions.

Lessons learned

I learned as many lessons from efforts that were less than successful as from those that succeeded. Not everything went the way I would have hoped. The main lesson I learned is that the power of the APA president is actually quite limited, and rightfully so. He or she can attempt to inspire, to role model, to guide. But mostly, he or she should listen! The final authority in APA is its Council of Representatives, not the president (or its Board of Directors), and that is precisely as it should be, because council is the most representative governing body within APA.

Like many APA members, I started off skeptical about some aspects of APA and its governance processes. Indeed, no organization is perfect. But I have come to know of no professional organization that serves its members better and more comprehensively than does APA. We should all be proud of APA, the largest, most diverse and most powerful organization of psychologists in the world.

I'll look back on my year as a wonderful learning and growth experience for myself, and, I hope, for all of us. Thanks so much for giving me the chance to serve!