Translating Science into Impact
Margaret L. Schneider, PhD, SBM President
Summer is here, and I am still buzzing from the in-person 2022 SBM Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD, this spring. The buzz is but a reverberation of the enthusiasm for our vibrant SBM community that was in evidence in abundance at the meeting. Those of you who were able to join in person bore witness to an explosion of energy the release of which was testament to the long periods of professional isolation that have characterized the last couple of years. If you were not able to attend the meeting, I hope you have been able to connect with colleagues who were there, to hear about the inspiring speakers, the wide-eyed student members attending their first in-person conference, and the boisterous hallway reunions among long-time colleagues too long separated by a persistent pandemic. True to our values, members were diligent about observing safety protocols, and all available evidence suggests that the meeting was a resounding success in terms of scientific communication and public health goals.
SBM 2022 broke new ground in addressing the triple threat of the pandemic, systemic racism, and climate change. As we begin planning for SBM 2023, we will likewise be confronting challenges to health and well-being that may stretch our historical thematic boundaries. Ours is a professional society dedicated to improving health and quality of life through proven behavioral science. This mission is stated right on the homepage of our website. When I first joined SBM 30ish years ago, most of our behavioral science was aligned with lifestyle medicine: promoting exercise, good nutrition, and stress reduction. More recently, SBM has embraced a whole new range of behaviors with profound implications for health at the individual, community and global levels. In his presidential address for the 2022 Annual Meeting, Dr. David Conroy expanded the SBM agenda to tackle “the urgency of adaptation” in the face of institutional, global, and viral threats to health and well-being. As we begin our planning for the 2023 conference, the theme of which will be “Translating Science into Impact,” we are moving into a new normal characterized by a pandemic-turned-endemic, a prolonged military conflict with global implications, ongoing racial and political tensions, and a frightening time of increasing restrictions in women’s reproductive health.
In such a time of multiple and multiplicative challenges to health and quality of life, I am filled with hope by the resourcefulness, passion, and optimism of our SBM community. Our members are exploring new ways of leveraging their expertise in science and communication to ameliorate the mental and physical health consequences emanating from these local, regional, and global events. In addition to reaffirming the power of health behaviors to buffer against the effects of the current threats—yes, exercise, good nutrition and stress reduction do still need and deserve our attention—SBM is taking a more active role in shaping and informing health policy, in harnessing technology for better health, and in placing diversity, equity and inclusion at the center of all we do.
The recently-released SBM position statement supporting policies that protect abortion rights, authored by former SBM president Sherry Pagoto et al. illustrates our members’ determination to advocate for policies that promote better health through proven science. Each of us contributes to this mission by generating the science that informs decision-making, by engaging with members of the community to identify and amplify their priorities, by collaborating with colleagues to ensure that behavioral science is integrated into clinical care policies and practices, and by mentoring successive generations of scientists who will sustain and grow the impact of behavioral medicine. SBM offers multiple avenues for strengthening members’ professional skills, building our community cohesion, and magnifying our impact, including Grand Rounds webinars, Special Interest Groups, the Diversity Institute for Emerging Leaders, the Mid-Career Leadership Institute, the Mentorship program offered through the Student SIG, and of course our Annual Meeting. In the coming year, I invite you to engage with your SBM colleagues as frequently and in as many ways as possible; let that be our pathway from science to impact.