Cover Story

In selecting her convention themes for APA's Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., Aug 2–5, APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD, chose to highlight three areas that are critically important to the nation's health and the field of psychology: obesity, interdisciplinary team science and interprofessional practice.

APA divisions and governance groups worked with Johnson to create three collaborative and innovative program tracks on each theme. All tracks will offer CE.

"These tracks are designed to prepare psychologists for the key roles they must play as scientists who can work on teams to solve society's most intractable problems, as practitioners who provide care as part of interprofessional teams and as behavior and health experts who can help turn around the obesity epidemic," says Johnson.

She selected four experts to develop these presidential tracks and asked each chair to share highlights from the programming.

Obesity, chaired by Gareth R. Dutton, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Why should psychologists pay more attention to obesity? "Approximately two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the United States are overweight. Behavioral, psychological and socio-cultural factors are key contributors to this situation. Given psychologists' expertise in these domains, we can play an important role in understanding the development, prevention and treatment of obesity."

What will be new to most psychologists? "Psychologists who are not involved in obesity research or practice may be surprised by the important contributions psychology makes to this area. Many psychologists have played key roles in the development of evidence-based obesity treatments, changes to public policy related to food and exercise, and our understanding of the biological processes that influence obesity."

Name one not-to-be-missed session. "Dr. David Allison's presentation, 'Contributors to Obesity: Exploring the Roads Less Traveled,' should provide a thought-provoking overview of potential—but often overlooked—contributors to obesity, such as micro-organisms, assortative mating and increasing maternal age, among others."

Other sessions include:

  • "Childhood Obesity from Exercise to Parents: What Research and Practice Can Teach Us."
  • "Psychological Evaluation of the Patient Requesting Bariatric Surgery."
  • "Addressing Obesity and Health Disparities in the Nation's Children."
  • "Discrimination toward Obese Persons: A Social Injustice and Public Health Priority."
  • "Obesity-depression Associations in the Population: Research and Clinical Implications."
  • "Policy and Environmental Approaches to Curbing Obesity in the United States."
  • "Successful Weight Maintenance Following Weight Loss."
  • "Transforming Systems to Reduce Child Obesity."
  • "Divergent Responses to an Obesogenic Environment."
  • "Physical Activity Before, During and After Pregnancy: A Weighty Issue."
  • "Outwitting the Wisdom of the Body: Interrelationships between Obesity and Cognitive Functioning."

Interdisciplinary Team Science, chaired by M. Lynne Cooper, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Nancy Dess, PhD, a professor of psychology at Occidental College

Why is team science important? "The future of scientific discovery and its application hinge on multidisciplinary teams conducting high-impact research," says Dess. "For psychology to engage fully in this effort, multidisciplinarity must be embraced as a central goal. The presidential track will raise awareness about this issue and provide information and networking opportunities to move this agenda forward."

What will be new for most psychologists? "Attendees may be surprised at how well developed and creative some multidisciplinary theories, research programs and funding opportunities are," says Cooper. "Silo and lone-wolf models of psychological science are giving way to integrated, collaborative approaches. Specialization and expertise no longer imply narrowness or reductionism—which, if surprising, should be welcome news."

Name one not-to-be-missed session. "Of course, all of the sessions will be terrific, but I am personally interested in the symposium on interdisciplinary training, which will describe how some departments are already taking steps in that direction," says Cooper. "Training future generations of psychologists to be players in multidisciplinary research is vital to the health of our field."

"Hard question!" says Dess. "Forced to choose, I would say the 'Case Studies' because this session will illustrate the utility of the integrative conceptual frameworks and the successful navigation of challenges laid out in other panels, pulling the track together in a vivid, inspiring way."

Sessions include:

  • "What is Interdisciplinary Team Science? Conceptual Frameworks."
  • "Testimonials: Psychologists' Working in Interdisciplinary Science Teams."
  • "Show Teams the Money: Funding Streams."
  • "Preparing Psychologists to Create, Join and Lead Interdisciplinary Teams."
  • "Case Studies," a series of talks that illustrate opportunities, challenges and strategies characterizing team science in more detail.
  • "Tools for Teams: Ensuring That Interdisciplinary Team Science Works."
  • "Beyond the Seven Dwarfs: Building a Successful Interdisciplinary Team."

Interprofessional practice, chaired by Helen L. Coons, PhD, president and clinical director of Women's Mental Health Associates, Philadelphia

Why is this area so important for the field? "Interprofessional approaches and team work are essential to effectively address complex challenges in health care, schools, for sports teams, in businesses and within the legal system. These sessions will bring together professionals from different fields and settings to showcase how we can address problems that require collaborative evaluation, consultation and intervention."

What will surprise most psychologists? "Many psychologists have not had the opportunity to learn about interprofessional approaches in diverse practice settings in so many practice settings or hear about the importance of functioning competently on teams to deliver effective services. These sessions will show psychologists how different teams work collaboratively and highlight some of the more innovative models."

Name one not-to-be-missed session. "I'm excited about the session on mentoring where students and early career psychologists can meet with well-known psychologists for small roundtable discussions to hear about interprofessional training opportunities, practice and credentialing in primary care, pediatrics, geriatric and rehabilitative health settings, and in health systems such as the VA and military hospitals and schools."

Sessions include:

  • "Mentoring Moments for Trainees and Early Career Psychologists."
  • "Expanding Performance in Exercise and Sport Psychology."
  • "Integrated Approaches to Geriatric Health Care."
  • "Integrated Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine."
  • "Integrated Primary Care."
  • "Opportunities in Law Enforcement, Public Safety and Criminal Justice."
  • "Integrated Care for Women and Children in Federally Qualified Health Centers."

CE workshops

The presidential tracks also include three continuing-education workshops:

  • "Overcoming and Preventing Obesity Using an Evidence-Based, Culturally Sensitive Health-Smart Behavior Program," offering seven CE credits. Presenter: Carolyn M. Tucker, PhD, University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
  • "Transitioning Your Psychology Practice to Inter-professional Health and Mental Health Settings," offering four CE credits. Presenters: Helen L. Coons, PhD, Women's Mental Health Associates, Philadelphia, and Barry S. Anton, PhD, Rainier Behavioral Health, Tacoma, Wash.
  • "International Classification of Disease," offering four CE credits. Presenter: Geoffrey Reed, PhD, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

Submit your poster proposal

APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson, PhD invites you to submit posters featuring your latest work in the three presidential track areas of interdisciplinary science, interprofessional practice and obesity.

The special poster session, set for Aug. 5, will showcase up to 60 posters on each track topic. There will be guided tours of the posters by experts in the field and light refreshments.

To submit a poster, go to APA's convention website, where you'll find a link for submitting abstracts for the Presidential Poster Session. You must:

  • Submit an abstract relevant to interdisciplinary science, interprofessional practice or obesity.
  • Complete your submission on or before May 15.
  • If accepted, you will agree to attend the Presidential Poster Session on Aug. 5, from 4–6 p.m., in the Orlando Convention Center, showcase your findings on a 4 x 6 foot poster board and discuss your work with attendees.

All proposals will be reviewed by members of the Presidential Track Program Committees. Authors of all abstracts selected for presentation will be notified by June 8.