FIG1 Communications is at the
heart of an organization's ability to publicize its mission, messages, and
priorities. In recent weeks, we have breathed new life into our communications
efforts with the reorganization of the APA Office of Communications and Public
In years past, OCPA served as the epicenter for our public relations
efforts and public information campaigns. Now, with a new team in place, we
are embarking upon a new era for APA communications.
OCPA will be the driving force behind our efforts to communicate our vision
and mission to our key internal audiences and external publics and to develop
a national public awareness and issues management campaign. Once defined and
launched, it will be a campaign that will ultimately strengthen APA's position
with our patients and their families, APA members, patient advocacy groups,
nonpsychiatric physicians, elected officials, and regulators.
OCPA is developing a progressive communications plan that includes
launching a public information campaign during spring 2005 that will address
three key issues: patients' understanding of psychiatric illness, stigmas
associated with psychiatric disorders, and the difference between treatment by
psychiatric physicians and nonphysician mental health practitioners.
Along with leaders of other APA divisions, OCPA staff is beginning to work
with the Committee on Public Affairs to set specific goals for addressing our
key public issues, as well as to provide more communications support for the
Public Affairs Network and the membership at-large.
Here are examples of the kind of support APA members can expect from OCPA
These are just a few of the efforts now being led by OCPA director Lydia
Sermons-Ward, who joined APA on June 1 and brings more than 20 years of
communications experience and organizational management skills to APA.
Sermons-Ward previously served as senior vice president of communications and
marketing for a national nonprofit credit-counseling membership organization;
communications director for Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony A. Williams;
communications director for the U.S. Treasury Department; press secretary for
President Bill Clinton's One America: President's Initiative on Race; press
secretary for Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah; public relations manager for
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; station services manager and producer for
a CBS television station; and public affairs producer for an ABC affiliate
television station. She also has a bachelor's and master's degree in
Since June, Sermons-Ward has developed a team of capable communications
professionals who are taking bold and much-needed steps to strengthen APA's
voice as a leader on mental illness issues and treatment.
Rounding out the OCPA team are Hillarie Turner, who after serving two years
with APA was recently promoted to senior communications specialist; Chris
Weaver, electronic communications specialist who also serves as the APA Web
master; Gionne Johnson, who left the Psychiatric Services journal to
join the office as marketing and editorial writer; Jessica Mikulski,
communications specialist, who came to us from the New Jersey Credit Union
League; and Kyle Jones, communications coordinator, who recently obtained a
communications degree from Hampton University.
In today's crowded marketplace, many organizations and institutions have
emerged as data sources for psychiatric illness. But APA continues to be a
dominant information source in the mental health community, given our history
as the longest-serving professional organization for psychiatric physicians
and the largest proprietor of psychiatric intellectual property. Now, with a
renewed focus on communications, we look forward to re-establishing APA as the
leading voice on psychiatric illness and promoting our members as the leading
providers of psychiatric care. ▪