What do you see as the biggest issues facing the field?
Right now, the two biggest issues as I see them have to do with firmly establishing ourselves as a health-care profession and as a health science discipline. We have to be viewed as an integral part of not just mental health, but as part the overall health-care establishment. The pervasive impact of behavioral, psychological, emotional and social factors on the etiology and course of a range of illnesses means that psychology needs to have a seat at the health-care table.
We have made progress of late in this regard with the CPT codes, but we must push further. Of course, the strongest justification for this push comes from our science, which has produced amazing discoveries in recent years in areas such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, musculoskeletal disorders and others. Yet we are still not viewed as mainstream health science, and our principles and findings are not a core part of most medical school curricula.
In this era of molecular biology, we must be ever more assertive about the importance of our approach, which is at its core an integrative one. We operate under the assumption that the mind, the body and behavior are inextricably linked. Although I am as intrigued as anyone about the new discoveries in genetics, I also know that as the limits of this approach become more salient, the value of psychological and behavioral levels of analysis should increase.
What are your top priorities and what timeframe do you have for each?
The top priority for me is to work with the APA governance and staff to develop a plan for increasing nondues revenue. We don't want to increase revenue for its own sake, but because we want to ensure that APA is financially strong enough to endure any downturns in the economy, and that it will always be there for future generations of psychologists.
Revenue is also important because I want to make being a member of APA something that all psychologists believe they simply cannot do without. To accomplish this, we must provide a level of service and membership benefits that add significant value to the professional lives of psychologists--be they in practice, science, education, policy or any of the myriad of places we work. I want APA to be at the forefront of increasing the use of psychological knowledge in the world, be it in health care, in the media, at the workplace or in public policy, and to work to create opportunities for psychologists in these arenas. I want to increase the ethnic and racial diversity of people going into the field of psychology, in light of our increasingly diverse society. And I want to ensure that the APA central office is considered to be an outstanding place to work for our 500-plus employees.
I don't have a specific timeframe for these things as yet, but I would like to start on them as soon as possible. If we can accomplish these priorities, I would view my tenure as a success.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I have a vision-directed and strategy-focused style that is very collaborative and team oriented. I love working with really smart people to craft strategic directions, meet goals and to solve problems. Fortunately, APA has a wealth of this kind of human capital for me to work with within its governance and staff structures.
But I think the role of the CEO is special, since this is the only person who sees every aspect of the organization, and whose job it is to make sure the pieces are all working together. I have always favored the "big picture" perspective in my work, and when dealing with all the components and constituencies of APA, it is the ultimate big picture. APA is like a huge aircraft carrier and the CEO has to make sure it is moving in the right direction.
As a leader, I like to operate under a set of guiding principles, and I am still formulating those for this new position. But they will likely include things like honesty, service to our members, transparency in all endeavors, respect for diversity in all its forms, respect for differing perspectives, collegiality among members and staff, and shared decision-making, among others. I think the core of my leadership style, and the glue that holds my leadership philosophy together, can be summed up in three words: communicate, communicate, communicate. For me, there is really no substitute for the communication, be it on an interpersonal level to create strategy or to simply learn what our constituencies think about an issue, or more formal presentations to influential groups to create excitement about what psychology has to offer. I think the CEO can assist the APA president in being an ambassador for the field.
APA has had a difficult budget year and has made disciplined cuts to its budget, including a staff reduction and the cancellation of some governance meetings. How will you tackle this current budget situation?
I think the cost-cutting measures put into place by the Board and Council were prudent, and so far are proving to be effective. We nevertheless have to be constantly vigilant about the budget, using it to create new opportunities and services for psychologists, while at the same time continuing to strive to have at least one year's budget in reserve funds in case of emergency. We have to be able to absorb any major financial downturn, such that there is no diminution of the services offered to our members. I will be working closely with our Finance Committee and executives within APA to meet these goals.
What specific plans do you have to promote the work of psychology practitioners?
Coming into the job, I realize that while I was well-known in the science community, I was not as well-known in the practice community, even though a great deal of my interests are in the practice area. So, I want to have a fairly aggressive outreach program to this population.
[APA Executive Director for Practice] Russ Newman and I have talked about developing a plan to allow me to have a series of interactions and forums with the practice populations to make sure I understand their issues and concerns. I got a great start on this at our convention in Chicago, where I was able to meet and talk with many groups and individuals from the practice community. For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of the job is the opportunity to address practice issues in depth, as I have with science issues in the past.
I also plan, over the next five years, to visit as many state and provincial psychological associations as I can to again learn more about the issues facing practice and learn how the CEO can make a difference. We have a lot of great things going on for practitioners in APA's Practice Directorate, and I would like the CEO's office to add value to those efforts.
Also, because of my familiarity with the Washington arena, I'd like to be at the forefront of advocacy work on Capitol Hill. Again, a lot is going on in that realm and I think with my experience and knowledge of that scene I could add some value to efforts that have already been started.
What's your stance on prescription privileges?
This is an issue that has divided our membership perhaps more than any other. There are extraordinarily intelligent and well-meaning people who just happen to come down on opposite sides of this debate.
I personally favor prescription privileges for one overarching reason--the compelling public health need. In many states with large rural populations, the majority of the population has no access to psychiatric services. People are suffering needlessly and psychology can help fill this void.
And I am proud that we have gone about this the right way--we set the training bar very high to ensure competence and safety and maintained a focus on postdoctoral training, we conducted and rigorously evaluated demonstration projects, we set rules for supervision. We are proving that we can meet this public health need while staying true to our core expertise in psychotherapy.
Others may still disagree with this direction, and that is okay. We can have honest disagreements without allowing it to perpetuate a permanent chasm within the family of psychology. We can move beyond this and unite around other pressing issues facing psychology.
How can APA further strengthen its science base?
Our efforts in science are some of the best-kept secrets about APA. The association is an extremely hospitable place for psychological scientists, as demonstrated by our journals, which are among the best in the world, our convention, our many science divisions and all the great things that the Science Directorate is doing. I know we have lost some science members over the years and, like our practice colleagues, our scientist members will always be members of other organizations in addition to APA. And that's fine. But I want to roll out the welcome mat and encourage those scientists who have left to come back home.
I also think we need to continue to work assertively with the national funding agencies to ensure that psychological science can compete equally for research dollars. We have so much to offer society with respect to the understanding of basic mental and behavioral processes, and in the understanding, prevention and treatment of illnesses. APA has always been at the table at the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, and with Congress, and I plan to use my experiences in working with these entities to ensure that we have an even greater presence when science budgets are constructed. And because of my work at NIH, I still know my way around town.
What will you do to support students at APA?
Although it is a cliché, students really are the future of the field. We have to get students involved in all aspects of APA as early as possible in order to grow our future Council, Board, and committee members, division leaders, presidents and CEOs. I will work closely with the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students and other groups to evaluate how APA is meeting the needs of students and to determine if we can do better.
How will you reach out to members?
I want to continue Ray Fowler's tradition of being accessible by phone and e-mail to all members, since they are who I work for. I would also like to have a series of townhall meetings across the country with state associations and university departments, where I can have a chance to hear what is on members' minds. In order for APA to provide the best service to its members, I have to understand the things that are important in the day-to-day lives of psychologists.
What piqued your interest in psychology as a career?
I come from a family of psychologists and ministers. On the minister side, everyone in my immediate family is a Baptist minister--my father, mother and brother. My parents are deceased, but they were co-pastors of a very large church in North Carolina for almost 50 years. My brother is an ordained minister. My parents, especially my mother, always thought that I would go into the ministry. Then, when I became a psychologist, she'd introduce me to her friends saying, "His ministry is psychology."
When you lead in a very large church like my parents did, there are a lot of relationship issues that you are constantly dealing with. Ministers are often addressing people's emotional needs and their psychological well-being. So, in fact, there are a lot of similarities between being a psychologist and being a minister, and perhaps on some level, growing up as a preacher's kid may have piqued my interest in psychology.
There's also lot of similarities between pasturing a large church and being CEO of an organization like APA, where you have many different constituencies with sometimes overlapping and sometimes competing interests. It's the job of the minister, and partly the job of the APA CEO, to bring such disparate groups together to find common ground. So, in some respects, my mother was right, my ministry has become psychology.
As far as psychologists go, there are four other psychologists in my extended family. Two of my first cousins are psychologists: Ferdinand Jones, who just retired as a professor at Brown University, and Arthur Jones, a psychology professor at the University of Denver and the former chair of the Colorado Psychology Board. His wife, Christine Chao, is in private practice in Denver. Another cousin, Carolyn Corbett, is a faculty member at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
With all of the work that you do--and will do as APA's CEO--how do you stay balanced and focused?
The main way I stay balanced and focused is through the practice of meditation. I've been practicing transcendental meditation for nearly 30 years and have recently taken up other types of meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation. That really allows me to stay psychologically and emotionally balanced, especially through stressful times.
But also physical exercise is a critical element to my overall psychological well-being and I try to schedule exercise every day. I don't leave it to chance. My main types of exercise are full-court basketball and yoga. In fact, I started doing yoga in order to, in some respects, heal my body from the basketball. And, when I can, those two mainstays are supplemented by tennis and rollerblading. I know Ray has the "Running Psychologists," so maybe I will start the "basketball psychologists" or "yogi psychologists."
What do you see as your greatest accomplishment to date?
Professionally, I would have to say it was getting a PhD in psychology. I really think it overshadows everything else because of how far I had to come academically in order to earn it. The rigor of the program that I was in stretched me beyond what I perceived to be my limits. Nothing else has done that to the same extent.
On the personal side, the greatest accomplishment was caring for and spending a lot of time with my mother when she was dying of cancer. Fortunately, when I was at Duke she lived only 50 miles away, and I was able to drop my work for a time to spend time with her. Although we were always close, it provided an opportunity to bond and connect with her in ways that were on a much deeper level. Even though it was certainly a tragedy, there was almost a paradoxical benefit in terms of our relationship. So, I don't know if that is really an accomplishment, but it is something that was very important to me.
What's your outlook for psychology?
We have such an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the world. We are perfectly positioned to meet the needs of society in several areas, especially in health care--in both psychology practice and science--but also in other realms such as the workplace, education, public policy and in the media. The opportunities for psychologists to make a difference in the world are unlimited.