Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Spring/Summer 2016

President's Message: Expanding the Reach and Impact of Our Research

James F. Sallis, PhD, SBM president

James F. Sallis, PhD, SBM president
James F. Sallis, PhD
SBM President

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.

Research Translation

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 policy makers 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 policy makers 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 policy makers. 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. Program Chair David Marquez 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 that 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, PhD
Society of Behavioral Medicine