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2014 Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions Recap

Elliot J. Coups, PhD, 2013–2014 Program Committee Chair
Lila J. Finney Rutten, PhD, MPH 2013–2014 Program Committee Co-Chair

As at least 1,707 of you know (the second highest attendance ever), this year’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia was a great success! Philadelphia provided a wonderful setting for the meeting, the theme of which was, Behavior Matters: The Impact and Reach of Behavioral Medicine. A host of featured sessions illustrated the many ways that behavioral medicine impacts health and healthcare across diverse settings and populations.

The attendees represented more than 20 disciplines and many sessions featured cross-disciplinary team science approaches. Just over a third of the Annual Meeting attendees were students and other trainees and a number of sessions focused on relevant training, funding, mentorship, and professional service opportunities. Allison Vizgatis, a first-time student attendee, noted: “I attended a talk about Dynamical Modeling where engineers teamed up with psychologists to create a new theory about how to better predict behavior. I was captivated by the knowledge and synergy of the speakers. Each of them had a very different background of expertise, but were able to come together and create a concept that is teeming with collaborative ingenuity. It was nice to see an example of ‘outside of the box thinking,’ and be exposed to an exciting, new idea in the field.”

It was wonderful to see many informal discussions at the meeting among individuals at different career stages. Even brief interactions at the Annual Meeting can have long-lasting benefits and illustrate the collegiality of the society’s members and the behavioral medicine field more broadly. Michael Falconieri, an undergraduate student at Ithaca College and first-time attendee at the meeting, remarked: “After one talk, a professor of psychology … took me aside and had a five-minute conversation with me because she was impressed by a question I asked. I was so giddy afterwards I could not hold back my smile. Overall going to a professional conference was the highlight of my college career. I truly hope to be able to attend another one by the time I graduate.”

Meeting attendees came from 18 different countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. And perhaps it is news to you that if you are a member of SBM, you are automatically a member of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine (ISBM; www.isbm.info). If you aren’t already planning to do so, consider attending ISBM’s 13th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine, which is being held in Groningen, The Netherlands, from August 20–24 (www.icbm2014.com).

We were delighted to again have a mobile app for the meeting, which was well-utilized and generated a lot of positive feedback. We also appreciate the helpful suggestions that people provided, many of which we hope to include in next year’s meeting app. The meeting generated lively commentary on Twitter, with many attendees live tweeting during sessions and continuing discussions throughout each day. It is remarkable how much insight can be captured within the 140 character limit of a tweet: a writing lesson for us all, perhaps!

The 35th anniversary of the Annual Meeting provided an opportunity to review the history of the field of behavioral medicine. Drs. Marc Gellman and Sherry Pagoto put together an extremely informative poster timeline of the field (see  www.sbm.org/UserFiles/file/Historyofbehavioralmedicinetimeline4-18-14.jpg), highlights of which include: the first use of the term “behavioral medicine” in 1973 in Lee Berk’s book, Biofeedback: Behavioral Medicine; the 1977 Yale Conference on Behavioral Medicine (which sought to define and outline the goals of the behavioral medicine field); the founding of SBM in 1978; the inaugural issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine journal in 1985; the first International Congress of Behavioral Medicine (in Uppsala, Sweden) and founding of ISBM in 1990; and the first publication of SBM’s journal Translational Behavioral Medicine: Practice, Policy, Research in 2011. The field has come a long way in its relatively short history and it is exciting to consider what the coming decades will bring for the society and the field as a whole.

We thank those of you who completed an Annual Meeting evaluation. Your feedback will help to shape next year’s Annual Meeting, which is being held in San Antonio, Texas, from April 22–25.   Also, be sure to share feedback about the Annual Meeting and ideas for future sessions within the society’s special interest groups or SIGs (see www.sbm.org/about/special-interest-groups). As many of you know, the SIGs are a vital component of the society and play an important role in developing content and activities at the Annual Meeting. Some highlights of the SIG activities at this year’s Annual Meeting included a poster session flash mob (not as scary as it might sound!) organized by the Diabetes SIG, the Technology (formerly Behavioral Informatics) SIG’s popular breakfast preview of each day’s technology-focused sessions, and a session on career development award opportunities led by the Ethnic, Minority, and Multicultural Health SIG and the Education, Training, and Career Development Council.

The meeting would not be possible if it were not for the hard work of many individuals, including the members of the Annual Meeting Program Committee (Ellen Beckjord, PhD, MPH; Mary Cooley, PhD, RN; Brian Gonzalez, PhD; Camonia Long, PhD, CHES; Claudio Nigg, PhD; Jennifer Otten, PhD, RD, Margaret Schneider, PhD; Dawn Wilson, PhD, 2013–2014 SBM President; and Geoffrey Williams, MD, PhD), the SBM staff members (Alicia Sukup, Holland LaFave, Amy Stone, Ben Stumpf, Ryan Spannagle, and Tara Withington), as well as the many track chairs, abstract reviewers (all 381 of them), paper session chairs, and volunteers. We also extend sincere thanks to those of you who generously donated funds to cover the registration costs of an extra 13 student volunteers at this year’s meeting. As one of the volunteers noted, “[t]hank you again for selection into this year's volunteer program. Honestly, it was instrumental to me being able to attend for the first time and present a poster.” Another student volunteer, Melissa Rodriguez, remarked on additional benefits of volunteering: “I truly enjoyed being a volunteer this year at SBM. As I greeted people at the registration desk, I was able to meet presenters and other key investigators in the field. My experience as a volunteer allowed me to then network with ease at poster sessions and presentations.” We would also like to thank all of the attendees for their active participation in the meeting and we very much look forward to seeing you in San Antonio next April!