My original goal with this column was to try to generate enthusiasm for the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s (SBM’s) 2017 Annual Meeting in San Diego. But I don't need to do that because I have evidence you are already stoked (that's a surfer term). You just submitted a record number of abstracts—nearly 100 more than the previous record! That is an encouraging sign that SBM 2017 will be packed with high-quality science. Given that the conference theme challenges us to "expand horizons in behavioral medicine," we can expect a big emphasis on innovation and creativity in the presentations.
I hope all of you are making plans to attend, even if you did not submit an abstract. Of course, you have one more chance to submit a late-breaking abstract. Rapid poster submissions will open November 3.
To further boost enthusiasm for the meeting, I want to give you an overview of the keynotes, master lectures, and featured symposia. The keynote talks address to some extent my presidential theme of improving the translation of research into action. The opening keynote is Robert Ross, MD, who is president and CEO of The California Endowment. Among other topics, he will present the visionary community-wide interventions they are implementing and evaluating in 11 disadvantaged areas throughout California. Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, is dean of the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University. She is an eminent epidemiologist studying health disparities, who translated her research by being featured in a PBS TV series titled, Unnatural Causes. Harold Goldstein, DrPH, is executive director of Public Health Advocates, based in Sacramento, CA. His organization is devoted to research translation. Part of his presentation will provide guidance on making research more relevant to informing the policy process. The closing keynote will be delivered by Tracy Neal-Walden, PhD, who is chief of psychological health for the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General’s Directorate of Healthcare and Research Operations. She will provide an overview of health issues in military and veteran populations, present examples of research translation, and describe opportunities for SBM members to get involved in research and practice with the military community. Given the diversity of the speakers, their experiences, and their topics, I believe we will all learn a great deal from these keynote speakers, and hopefully be inspired and uplifted.
Four stimulating master lectures will also take place. Former SBM President Francis Keefe, PhD, from Duke University, will present a lecture in recognition of his 2016 SBM Distinguished Scientist Award. Kate Lorig, DrPH, from Stanford University, will deliver the Jessie Gruman Award Master Lecture. Frank Penedo, PhD, from Northwestern University, who is also president of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine, will encourage international collaboration as part of his remarks. Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, PhD, MA, MN, RN, FAAN, from the University of California-Los Angeles, will present on understudied Asian American populations.
Featured symposia are still in development, but I can provide some previews. As part of a new Presidential Task Force on Genomics, a symposium will describe why and how behavioral medicine researchers can get involved in genomics research. Innovations in smoking cessation research and models of academic-business partnerships will be described in separate symposia. We will select one of the submitted symposia on health disparities or minority health to be featured. Several excellent collaborations with National Institutes of Health (NIH) colleagues will be featured. The NCI Office of Implementation Science is organizing a symposium to highlight the work of grantees. The National Cancer Institute Team Science Program is leading a symposium that will preview a new book of great relevance to SBM attendees. Another NIH-organized session of interest will be a panel discussion on the new strategic plan for the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.
You might already be thinking it's going to be hard to manage your schedule in San Diego. You are probably right. There will be many appealing sessions competing with each other, so you may want to team up with colleagues, split up among sessions, and share notes later. The Program Committee is going to improve your quality of life at the conference by integrating many opportunities for physical activity throughout the day. When evening comes you will be ready for a walk along the Embarcadero and a good meal with old and new friends at one of the many restaurants in the Gaslamp District or beyond. SBM 2017 may be the best balance yet between a stimulating and productive conference and a memorably pleasant experience. Stay a couple of extra days to explore the zoo, take your family to Sea World, and go to Pacific Beach for a surfing lesson. You'll be stoked. Meeting registration opens November 1.
James F. Sallis Jr., PhD
President, Society of Behavioral Medicine
The Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) has nurtured me throughout my career. I have learned a great deal about the important health research we are engaged in, and I have benefitted from the wisdom and kindness of many valued colleagues over the years. So I am honored to be able to serve the members as president this year. My main goal is to build on the work of recent presidents by enhancing the reach and impact of our research, and I am framing my theme as improving the translation of research to policy and practice.
Early in my career I often added a vague sentence to the discussion section of papers that the results had "policy implications" or could be applied in practice. However, I did not have any idea about how that connection between my research and policy or practice could be made, and making the connection did not seem like my job. I did not realize that few policymakers or practitioners read our journal articles. Now I understand that research translation is mostly a haphazard process, though initiatives like the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and The Guide to Community Preventive Services are systematically using research to guide changes to practice and policy. As applied researchers, our goal is to use research to improve health, and we do not want our findings to be ignored. There is much that both SBM as an organization and individual members can do to improve the impact of our work.
SBM already is playing important roles in research translation, and recent initiatives have included annual Capitol Hill visits, policy briefs, and expanded partnerships with policy-active organizations. I am proposing additional steps including SBM Special Interest Groups working with the Health Policy Committee to develop more policy briefs; the Scientific and Professional Liaison Council developing relationships with policy-related organizations; the Publications and Communication Council increasing access to findings of selected papers using podcasts, YouTube videos, and online lay summaries; the Education, Training, and Career Development Council including research translation and policy impact in training goals; and the Membership Council adding a membership category for policymakers and advocates. I ask you to support these actions to make research translation a goal for all of SBM.
I have learned that individual researchers can make important contributions to research translation. My experience with Active Living Research demonstrated that many researchers are eager to get engaged in research translation. A first step is to make the main lessons of research accessible to potential research users by writing lay summaries, posting short YouTube videos, conducting webinars, or developing ongoing relationships with policymakers. A more time-efficient approach may be to work with evidence-based advocacy organizations, such as Trust for America's Health, or policy-engaged professional organizations, such as American Heart Association or American Cancer Society. Although not all SBM members will be comfortable getting involved in research translation, my request is to identify at least one action you can take to communicate your research to those who can use it.
Nurturing Diverse Leadership in SBM
Building on Marian Fitzgibbon's Leadership Institute for mid-career professionals, which will soon be open for applications for the 2017 institute, my goal is to support the development of more diverse leaders within SBM. I have seen effective mentoring programs in other organizations that can be adapted for SBM. I will be putting together a group to develop such a program, so please contact me if you are interested in contributing to this effort.
Plan Ahead for SBM 2017 in San Diego
It is a happy coincidence that I am involved in planning the 2017 SBM Annual Meeting that will be held in my home town of San Diego, CA. Program Chair David Marquez, PhD, and I, along with the Program Committee, have great plans underway. Stay tuned as the specifics are announced. The meeting theme is La Buena Vista: Expanding Horizons of Behavioral Medicine. The Spanish phrase recognizes the Latino heritage in San Diego, and "the beautiful view" refers to the perspective we have as we stand atop the mountain of evidence we have accumulated. Even as we appreciate our accomplishments, let's challenge ourselves to identify the most important directions for growth and expansion related to research, policy, and practice.
James F. Sallis Jr., PhD
Society of Behavioral Medicine