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From the President
At APA Communication Is a Two-Way Street
Psychiatric News
Volume 42 Number 23 page 3-3

A major focus of my presidential year has been communication. APA has strengthened our public affairs efforts to improve interactions with national policymakers (Congress and the executive branch) as well as the media. Our Office of Minority and National Affairs has built alliances with the faith community (where many people first turn for help with mental health issues). Our workplace initiative, known as the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, continues to reach employers (Psychiatric News, October 19), and research increasingly documents the impact of psychiatric care on businesses' bottom line.

Knowing the importance of physicians in identifying and treating mental disorders, we have enhanced our work with the medical community both through organizations such as the AMA and the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS, the umbrella organization for the major medical specialties) and through specific educational and research efforts. These efforts are paying off; our communication and impact in the AMA continue to grow in effectiveness, and with the election of our medical director/CEO, Dr. Jay Scully, as president-elect of the CMSS, we have another strong voice in organized medicine.

Our other important focus is communicating with members. It often has been stated that one of the best-kept secrets is what APA does to help psychiatrists care for patients. How do we best inform psychiatrists about issues that affect us and our patients? As a clinician in private practice, I constantly struggle to keep up with developments in science and policy. Reading Psychiatric News certainly makes this task easier, but I know all too well that time is precious and claimed by many other demands.

Our Assembly can be of great assistance in the communication process. Its members are elected by local colleagues and serve as conduits both to and from the grass roots of the Association. As such, they are activists—bringing important matters to the attention of their colleagues and the national organization, as well as educators. Our Assembly members are knowledgeable about overall APA programs and efforts; they participate in advocacy, support professionalism, promote psychiatry's "causes," and encourage and assist other psychiatrists to do so. They participate in outreach to medical students, psychiatry residents, and early career psychiatrists, serving as mentors in these psychiatrists' professional development. Many in the Assembly are active in their local medical societies, as well as other community programs.

While APA works to be open and responsive, it is impossible to have a personal dialogue with each of our more than 38,000 members. Through Assembly representatives as well as Area trustees, individual psychiatrists have a more direct voice in our representational governance. Just as we visit and inform our legislators, so can members work with their elected Assembly representatives to raise questions and concerns, as well as initiate ideas and possible actions.

As leaders, Assembly members have a responsibility to help set priorities and to respond to important questions: What are the issues that APA must address? What are the issues that only APA can address? What are the issues that APA should address? What are the issues that APA can address collaboratively with other organizations? Where should our energy and resources go? There are lots of wonderful opportunities and causes—many of which we share with other groups. But if we do not focus on our profession and our patients, who will? Consequently, we must make the difficult decision of allocating limited resources (we have not increased national dues for more than a decade) with our professional focus and priorities in mind, to do what we must do and what no one else can or will do.

We are a large organization serving diverse interests and needs. We come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and work in different settings— private practice, community and state clinics and hospitals, academic medical centers, the military, and the VA. We also serve subspecialty populations— children and adolescents, the elderly, and people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds—and care for those with a broad array of mental disorders including substance abuse. Each brings special concerns and demands for attention and resources.

As the overarching organization for all of psychiatry, APA must address the important needs of the field, as well as work collaboratively with psychiatry's subspecialty organizations and interest groups to achieve our priorities. Call or e-mail your Assembly representatives to ensure that your voice informs our actions to serve our profession and our patients. ▪

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