It's been a year of progress for APA on multiple fronts, said APA President
Michelle Riba, M.D., in her presidential address at the Opening Session of
this year's annual meeting in
Michelle Riba, M.D., presents a final message to APA members as their
president at the Opening Session of APA's 2005 annual meeting last month in
Riba outlined an agenda under her presidency in which advances were made in
five broad areas: mental health on college campuses, education in psychiatry,
government relations and advocacy, psychosomatic medicine, and
Psychosomatic medicine is a special interest of Riba's and was the theme of
this year's meeting, which offered a wide variety of courses, symposia, and
workshops addressing the interface between psychiatry and medicine. In her
speech she noted the creation of the new APA Council on Psychosomatic
Medicine, chaired by Philip Muskin, M.D. That council will be focusing on
clinical care, reimbursement, education of psychiatrists and nonpsychiatrists,
and research, Riba said.
With regard to the issue of mental health on college campuses, she noted
that the need for campus mental health services is increasing since many
students enter college already taking psychiatric medications. Many colleges
report seeing increasing rates of severe psychopathology and comorbidity, and
suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, Riba
"I gained greater insight into the issues faced by students during
our Annual Depression on College Campus Conference at the University of
Michigan," Riba said. "We heard from students from around the
country. They talked about their difficulties with a range of psychiatric
problems, including eating disorders, alcohol, suicide, and depression.
"The students told us how hard it was to see a qualified mental
health professional and to receive continuity of care," she said."
The increased pressures of examinations, being away from home, sleep
deprivation, loneliness, availability of drugs and alcohol, loss of privacy,
large lecture halls, and lack of structure make for obvious
She cited the establishment of the APA Presidential Task Force on Mental
Health on College Campuses, co-chaired by David Fassler, M.D., and Rachel
Glick, M.D., which is working on an initiative to increase awareness of the
challenges and risks faced during the college years and to provide students
with information about where they can turn for assistance.
Riba also drew attention to President Bush's signing of the Garrett Lee
Smith Memorial Act, a new federal suicide prevention effort prompted by the
September 2003 suicide of Sen. Gordon Smith's 21-year-old son.
In the area of psychiatric education, Riba made note of a special
presidential summit convened in April (see
page 12) to develop new
undergraduate medical education curricula in psychiatry incorporating the
latest advances in psychiatry content and teaching methods. Riba noted the
five-year upward trend of students selecting psychiatry for their
"We are also making progress in training patient-oriented
psychiatrist investigators in adult and child psychiatry," Riba said.
She pointed to the creation of the National Psychiatry Training Council, which
was convened by Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of
Mental Health, and on which she has served.
"The council was formed with an explicit mandate from NIMH to develop
proposals for implementing recommendations contained in the highly regarded
Institute of Medicine report, `Research Training in Psychiatry Residency:
Strategies for Reform,'" Riba said. "The recommendations encompass
a variety of goals tailored to residency training in our age of evidence-based
medicine. These goals range from assuring research literacy at one end of the
spectrum to increasing the number of residents who choose careers in
patient-oriented psychiatric research."
In the area of advocacy and government relations, Riba emphasized advances
made in research funding, efforts to stop the drive for
psychologist-prescribing privileges, and inroads made with regard to the
controversy surrounding black-box warnings on antidepressants.
On that last topic, Riba again drew attention to Fassler's leadership.
Among the many tasks he undertook was the development of Web-based resources
for physicians and parents on the use of antidepressants in youngsters in
collaboration with colleagues and allied organizations.
Finally, Riba emphasized APA's new outreach and communication effort,"
Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives," which focuses on what she called a"
message of hope and determination" (Psychiatric News,
"This new public information campaign is designed to achieve this
goal," she said. "At the same time, it puts a fresh, new face on
patient care, APA, and our profession. It addresses stigma associated with
mental illness, and it highlights the importance of seeking treatment from
"This awareness campaign is a step forward in strengthening APA as
the leading voice on mental health," she said. "And it's a step
forward in promoting our members as the leading providers of psychiatric
Riba also drew special attention to the work of Annelle Primm, M.D.,
director of APA's Department of Minority and National Affairs, who is helping
the profession better understand the needs of minority communities. Riba noted
that APA is now developing programs to increase the number of minority
psychiatrists and to work toward the elimination of mental health disparities
in underserved ethnic and racial groups.
"This is your association and your profession," she said in
concluding her speech. "I am grateful to all of you for your confidence
in me to lead the American Psychiatric Association. Your support, your ideas,
your energy—these are the elements that have made for a spectacular year
as your president, and I thank you." ▪