FIG1I am honored to serve you
and our profession as APA president and look forward to an active year on our
behalf. Also, I am pleased to continue to work toward the goals of access,
parity, and humane care as voiced by immediate past President Pedro Ruiz,
©Sylvia Johnson Photography 2007
This past year, I met with psychiatry residents and early career and more
senior psychiatrists representing diverse areas of practice from community
mental health centers to academic institutions and solo private practice, and
heard one question repeatedly: "Why should I be an APA member?"
Some stated that they are members of subspecialty organizations focusing on
specific patient populations, research, or care settings, and that
participation in these organizations is less costly in dues, as well as more
focused on their particular interest. They wonder why they should belong to a
large organization, representing such a broad range of interests and
Why do we have an APA, and if we did not, would we be forced to invent
APA's vision statement, as expressed on the Web site, states: "Its
member physicians work together to ensure humane care and effective treatment
for all persons with mental disorders, including mental retardation and
substance-related disorders. It is the voice... of modern psychiatry. Its
vision is a society that has available, accessible, quality psychiatric
diagnosis and treatment."
More simply put, APA's role is to help psychiatrists so that we can help
our patients. As the only organization for all of psychiatry, our focus is
advocacy and professionalism.
Primarily, A PA advocates for our patients and our profession by addressing
health policy nationally and in the states and promoting nondiscriminatory
access to appropriate care and protection of patient privacy, and working for
fair and adequate compensation for our work. To do so, we collaborate with
colleagues in other medical specialties and mental health professions, and
partner with a host of patient advocacy groups.
APA's other priority is advancing professionalism, by enhancing our
professional knowledge and skills through our first-rate publications and
educational materials, our outstanding scientific meetings, and a strong code
of professional ethics.
For APA to be most effective, it needs our support and participation. We
must be members, providing through our national dues (which, by the
way, have not increased for more than a decade!) funds to promote our efforts
in advocacy and professionalism. We must also be advocates,
partnering with staff to promote our professional objectives through
communication with policymakers, professionals, patient advocacy groups, and
As members, we may not all share the same priorities or means to the end.
Different perspectives about the role of psychiatry, boundaries, and social
issues, as well as clinical expertise or work setting, can consume energy and
cause us to lose sight of our goals. Smaller organizations or sub-specialty
groups are important, and shared purpose promotes affinity and satisfaction,
but the strength of having a more narrow focus is also a limitation. Smaller
groups need and depend on a vigorous APA to represent them and promote their
area of expertise and concern. APA's success will benefit all—nonmembers
as well as members and their patients—and we need the investment and
participation of more than a few to fulfill the promise for the field.
APA promotes science, advocating for research on prevention, treatment, and
the economics of care, including cost offsets. APA provides leadership in
psychiatric diagnosis (and a future column will address plans for
DSM-V) and treatment, develops outstanding educational programs and
products, and works for pocketbook as well as patient-care issues. Our voice
is heard and respected in Congress and in the states, the courts, and
increasingly the media. The public has begun to understand the importance of
mental health as part of overall health, and stigma, while unfortunately still
present, is on the decline.
What can we members do? Be informed. Let APA reach you directly. Is your
e-mail and telephone information up to date? Check online at<www.psych.org>
or by e-mail at
Let your voice be heard, interact with APA staff and leaders (call the Answer
Center at  35-PSYCH to have questions answered or to locate your local
Assembly representative), and share your knowledge with colleagues who may not
know what APA does for them or their patients.
To that end, the value of membership is measured in process as much as
products. The benefits are a strong profession and a cared-for public. Working
together, we can attain our goals. ▪