Preparing psychologists for diverse careers, expanding continuing education and shaping academic partnerships are the top priorities for Cynthia Belar, PhD, APA's new executive director for education.
Belar, a clinical health psychologist, has been actively engaged in teaching, research and practice for 25 years, most of which have been spent at the University of Florida Health Science Center. She'll take a three-year sabbatical from her post there as a professor and associate chair for academic affairs in the department of clinical and health psychology, to head the Education Directorate.
"Dr. Belar's visibility and credibility in the educational community will give her an instant jump start in taking over the position," says L. Michael Honaker, PhD, APA's acting chief executive officer. "She is an organizer and a problem solver and will be a valuable addition to our executive management team."
Belar's energy, ingenuity and wide range of expertise, say her colleagues, will make her popular with a large constituency and will be a great asset to psychology education and training.
"She is truly a big-picture person," says Edward Sheridan, PhD, senior vice president and provost of the University of Houston. "She will set high standards and be an articulate spokesperson for the Education Directorate," he says.
Belar was attracted to the executive director position because it offered her a chance to have a national impact on training and education, she says. "It was an opportunity to contribute more broadly to the discipline's initiatives," Belar says. "I also hope that it will provide the opportunity to promote excellence in the integration of science and practice, the integration of behavior and health and in the education and training of professional psychologists."
Not that work at the national level is a change for Belar. She has chaired three national conferences on graduate education and training--one on examining the scientist-practitioner model, one on postdoctoral training and another on internship training.
Belar has also made a national impact through her work to advance the field of health psychology. She founded one of the first formal tracks in medical psychology in a predoctoral clinical psychology program at the University of Florida. She is also one of the founders of Div. 38 (Health).
"I am an integrator," says Belar, who is a long-standing supporter of the mesh of science and practice. "But also one who tries to push the boundaries of the field in order to advance the field."
As a clinical health psychologist, Belar has done clinical work and research in multidisciplinary health-care settings throughout her career, including seven years as chief psychologist at the Los Angeles Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program. Working in these diverse settings has primed her for collaborating with different constituencies, which, colleagues say, will be valuable for her new role at APA.
The work has also helped her see how psychology education and training should prepare budding psychologists for multidisciplinary work, as well as niche practices and diverse careers--areas that she predicts will claim growing numbers of psychologists in the next several years.
"In creating the future of the discipline, we need to educate critical thinkers who are flexible in response to societal needs and marketplace changes, and who are able to develop the new knowledge that contributes to the public welfare and to the creation of new markets for service," says Belar.
In addition to preparing psychologists for diverse careers in her new role, she plans to explore ways to expand and develop new models for continuing education for all psychologists.
She's also eager to be involved with the advocacy efforts of APA's Public Policy Office, which she believes are extremely important for the funding of education. And she's interested in furthering efforts to develop academic partnerships among high school, community college, undergraduate and graduate psychology teachers.
"Psychology needs to ensure that the discipline is being appropriately introduced to all students, thus efforts such as the implementation of the National Standards for High School Psychology are very important activities for the directorate," she says. "I feel very fortunate," she adds, "to come in after the great leadership of [former executive director] Jill Reich and to be able to work with an excellent APA staff on the many initiatives under way that are so important for education."