Running Commentary

APA's 110th Annual Convention is now part of APA history, but the reverberations continue. Referred to by many attendees as the best ever, the convention broke many traditions and developed some innovative approaches. Surveys of members and falling percentages of members attending the convention led to concerns in the APA leadership that doing the convention the old way just wasn't meeting the needs of the members. (A full report on the convention will appear in next month's Monitor.)

President Phil Zimbardo, a long-time fan of APA conventions, made it his job to breathe new life into the convention. Starting with a new convention structure developed by the Board of Convention Affairs (BCA)--fewer days, more high profile speakers, more cooperation among divisions--Phil used his giant Rolodex, his powers of persuasion and his vast energy to attract the best and brightest to the convention to make it timely, intellectually stimulating and fun. Phil used the wisdom of BCA and the experience of the convention staff extensively, but the stamp of his ebullient personality was everywhere, and it charmed APA convention-goers just as Phil has charmed thousands of students through the years as a lecturer, text writer and TV impresario.

Since it was my last convention as APA's chief executive officer, APA 2002 was particularly meaningful to me. The many kind words from old friends and new, reminded me of why I love this organization and its Members, and left me with enough warm memories to light up my life for a long time. Being the target of roasts and good-natured spoofs was great fun, too, but more of that in the next Monitor.

One of the high points of the convention for me was the opportunity to help organize and chair a presidential track symposium on the psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of health. The symposium featured Herbert Benson, Dean Ornish and T. George Harris--three men who, although not psychologists themselves, have made unique contributions to psychology. Phil Zimbardo, following his practice of being omnipresent at the convention, materialized toward the end of the symposium to present Presidential Citations to two of the speakers and to congratulate the third who had already received a citation.

Herbert Benson, MD, has worked closely with psychologists in his pioneering work to identify approaches to stress reduction that use psychological mechanisms to affect physiological responses and dysfunctions. His citation noted that he defined the relaxation response, developed a set of mind-body approaches to counteract health disorders and made unique contributions to "a vigorous health psychology and a more balanced medicine."

Dean Ornish, MD, has directed research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes can not only prevent but even reverse severe coronary heart disease without drugs or surgery. His citation honored him for recognizing early on "that psychological factors are as important as physiological factors in causing or preventing heart disease" and for "major contributions to health psychology and for communicating the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to the nation."

T. George Harris, who organized the symposium and served as discussant, was the founding editor of Psychology Today. His deep understanding of psychology and his ability to present it in clear and understandable prose was a major factor in making psychology a household word and in promoting the use of psychological services by the public. His citation, from then-President Pat DeLeon in 2000, expressed the appreciation of APA for "his many significant contributions to the discipline and practice of psychology, yesterday, today and tomorrow."

This symposium is one example of hundreds of exciting presentations at the 2002 convention. The convention offered APA members a unique opportunity to hear about cutting-edge developments and to see and interact with some of the people, young and old, who are setting the pace for the 21st century. If you missed it this year, I hope to see you there next year.