From the CEO

As you probably know by now, the APA Board of Directors announced in early November that our 2006 convention will be held as scheduled in New Orleans, Aug. 10-13.

In this column, I wanted to provide some background on how the New Orleans decision was made and the actions we are taking to ensure the meeting will be a safe and productive one.

First, some background.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and neighboring Gulf Coast areas in August, our first concern was for the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The APA leadership turned its attention immediately to the appropriate role for this organization in relief efforts (see my November 2005 column for details). However, as television images of the devastation in New Orleans began to appear, APA was faced with a difficult decision about our scheduled annual meeting in the city.

Early on, after consultation with the Board of Directors and the Board of Convention Affairs (BCA), it was decided that our top priority would be to ensure that we are able to provide a high-quality meeting experience in a city where the necessary health, safety and public services needs of all attendees are met. We wanted to have strong indication that an adequate infrastructure would be in place in New Orleans by our 2006 meeting. This infrastructure includes the convention center, hotels, airport, city services, restaurants, tourist attractions, hospitals and taxi availability, among other things.

The site visit

On Oct. 31, a delegation from APA conducted a site visit to New

Orleans. Traveling with me were APA President-elect Dr. Gerald Koocher, Board Member Dr. Sandra Shullman, BCA Chair Dr. Jeffrey Barnett and several members of our executive management and Convention Office staff. Our group also included several New Orleans-area psychologists.

While in New Orleans we toured the Convention Center, the French Quarter, hotels, neighborhoods and primary tourist areas. What we saw was a city very different from what we had been seeing on television. Of course, none of New Orleans came through the storm unaffected, but we were pleased to see that the French Quarter and Convention Center areas sustained substantially less damage than the 9th Ward and other neighborhoods shown on television. Even in the short time between the occurrence of Hurricane Katrina and our site visit, the French Quarter and Convention Center areas were already well on their way to full recovery. Although it was clear during the site visit that New Orleans still had much work to do to be able to successfully host our meeting, it was also apparent that the city was on a trajectory of recovery that made it likely that it would be able to do so in August.

Beyond the site visit, we also collected other information that helped us make the decision, such as evaluations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency on air and water quality in the city, airline announcements that flight schedules would return to pre-Katrina levels in early 2006, member surveys and unsolicited correspondence from many members about the convention site.

The opportunity for APA

Once we became confident that New Orleans could provide the health, safety and services infrastructure necessary to host a meeting of our size, we saw our ability to keep the meeting in New Orleans as an exciting opportunity for APA and our membership to play a role in the rebuilding and revitalization of New Orleans.

Many of the members I have spoken to have expressed a keen desire to help the people of New Orleans; after all, helping people is the very reason many of us chose psychology as a career. Clearly, holding our convention there will provide a major economic boost for the city. But there is also the opportunity for individual members to volunteer directly to help the city and its residents. Details are not yet available, but, with the Board of Convention Affairs, we hope to be able to announce opportunities for members to volunteer some time during convention wherever volunteers are needed in the city. More details about these volunteer opportunities and about other convention information will follow in future issues of the Monitor on Psychology. 

This winter and spring we will continue to monitor the New Orleans recovery process, including environmental health measures being taken, but we are confident that our meeting in New Orleans this summer will be a successful one.

I hope to see you in New Orleans!