I am honored to serve as the 42nd President of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM). SBM has been my professional home for over 17 years. Like my personal home, it is my goal for SBM to be a “place” where all members and guests feel welcome, valued and are able to grow. I recognize the tremendous responsibility it is to be president of the Society, particular at this point in history. Our nation is in the midst of dealing with two pandemics: COVID-19 and racial injustice. However, during times of turmoil and uncertainty many rely on a trusted home base to center oneself, gather essential tools, energize and organize for collective action. SBM is that place.
Over the past few months, our physicians, nurses, psychologists and other healthcare providers have been on the front lines of providing medical and mental health care to COVID-19 patients. They have pointed out additional challenges including risks of domestic violence, barriers to accessing service and the shortfalls of telehealth in the midst of COVID-19. Our public health practitioners and behavioral science researchers have sounded the alarm around the need for the promotion of facts not fear and consistency and transparency in reporting the impact of COVID-19. In that vein, SBM has called for equitable healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic and research on disparities in COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality. Members have also shared resources and evidence-based strategies including coping with social isolation and loneliness and remaining physically active in the midst of a pandemic.
As if COVID-19 wasn’t enough, we were hit with the highly publicized senseless deaths of Mr. George Floyd (Minneapolis, MN), Ms. Breonna Taylor (Louisville, KY) and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery (Brunswick, GA). SBM released my initial statement calling out racism and its negative impact on the mental, behavioral and physical health of blacks and other racial/ethnic groups that have been targets of violent and traumatic events. A collaboration between the Health Policy Council and Health Equity SIG led to SBM’s policy position urging Congress to reform policing and increase funding for anti-racist research. Further still, our members have articulated a vision for Black men’s health in the face of COVID-19 and police brutality, recognizing that there are structural issues in law enforcement, academia, and healthcare that have to be addressed to dismantle racism in our county.
In the face of these pandemics and the associated uncertainty, SBM will cultivate resilience in the face of adversity. We will continue to thrive and deploy our proven science to ensure better health for all. This fall we will develop a new strategic framework for how the Society can continue to grow and meet the current needs of our larger society and allow for flexibility to address emerging issues. Over the next year, we will facilitate increased opportunities to listen to our membership and promote inclusion so that SBM feels more like home. We will continue to foster innovation with provocative questions and novel dissemination methods of our proven science. We will maintain and build strategic partnerships, increase our direct communications to the public and strengthen relationships with policymakers to expand our influence. I encourage you to Go All IN as our efforts towards INclusion will drive our INnovation and fuel our INfluence on the health of the larger society.