From the President
Time to Vote Again
Psychiatric News
Volume 43 Number 23 page 3-3

FIG1It does make a difference.

Fewer than half of our members vote in our APA elections. I suppose the most optimistic hypothesis is that our members think that any candidates chosen by the Nominating Committee must be excellent potential APA leaders. Less optimistic hypotheses might be these: it doesn't make any difference who is elected because the candidates are interested in personal aggrandizement rather than in the issues affecting our work, or APA has little impact on the world in which we study, teach, and practice psychiatry anyway. Perhaps you find that the biographical information and statements that the candidates provide to Psychiatric News don't enable you to differentiate among them. From my vantage point, having spent many years closely observing the function of our Board and Assembly, it makes an enormous difference whom you elect. Some of our leaders have worked hard for APA. Some have spent APA's resources wisely. Some have brought creative ideas and important relationships. Some, but not all.

The Board, which includes APA's officers, makes the decisions about how to spend your hard-earned dues; whether to take official positions on the issues of the day and what positions to take; what state, federal, and Supreme Court cases to weigh in on and what evidence to adduce; what messages about psychiatry to offer the public and how; how to educate elected and appointed government leaders about the importance of psychiatric research, training, and clinical care; and whom to hire as the medical director/chief executive officer of APA, how much salary to pay, and how much to allocate for the running of the APA office.

The president of APA appointed the leadership of the DSM-V process; the members of the Board decided whether there should be limits on industry (and some other kinds of) income. They approved an extensive disclosure process. The secretary-treasurer of APA, with a small committee appointed by the president, painstakingly reviewed the disclosure documents for each suggested DSM-V participant; the Board voted on each one who passed muster with that committee. Our voting members chose the individuals who made those decisions. As of this writing, Sen. Grassley has not offered a response to the extensive report we provided, at his request, at the beginning of September, but we may face further inquiries or Senate committee hearings. If hearings take place after my term ends in May 2009, the leaders you elect will speak for you.

Our last APA election precipitated complaints from members who felt they should have been better informed about candidates' relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, an issue that turned out to be relevant to the image of our Association and our field. While Psychiatric News does ask candidates to disclose their professional activities and sources of income, we may want to pose questions that elicit more specific information in the future. For example, we might want to ask candidates about their views on health care system reform, coercive treatment, the role of psychotherapy or religion in psychiatric practice, as well as expertise in running meetings, managing budgets, working with the media and government officials, and communicating with you. Whatever questions are asked of the candidates, they may not cover issues that matter to you. Now is the time to take the opportunity to "Google" the candidates and, equally important, to contact them directly with your questions about their backgrounds, views, and intentions. When I ran for president-elect, one member e-mailed me to ask whether APA should take positions on "social issues." Probably he did not agree with the answer I sent—but he knew where I stood.

I will chair the Nominating Committee for the 2010 APA election. We will begin our deliberations next July. There will be an announcement in Psychiatric News soliciting nominations. You may hear from potential candidates for next year when the current election is decided. Look at the list of officers and other Board members on APA's Web site. What attributes and experiences would you like to see represented? Do you see room for improvement in the balance of, for example, academicians versus private practitioners and senior psychiatrists versus promising new leaders, geographic and subspecialty distribution, and the representation of minority and underserved groups? After you check out this year's candidates and cast your very important vote, let me know what background and experience you would like to see represented among the candidates on next year's ballot.

It's up to you to pick the leaders who will take APA where you want us to go. ▪

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