Light in the tunnel
We are passing through a very dark time in the history of our country, and while there is not yet light at the end of the tunnel, there may be some illumination within, showing the way forward. The presence of simultaneous crises can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless, but we can’t lose hope. We are confronted with the covid pandemic, which despite its latest mutation being less deadly, remains highly contagious as it spreads around the world and continues to mutate. How do we adapt to continuous uncertainty about a possible illness that has fluctuated between an unpleasant seasonal flu and a lethal respiratory crisis. We have developed at lightening speed tools to counter this threat- vaccines, oral antiviral medications, public health recommendations such as wearing masks, socially distancing. Unfortunately, a number of these are disregarded out of distrust or for political expediency.
At the same time, we are facing the threat of global warming, manifest by extreme weather events such as unprecedented heat waves, blizzards, tornadoes, flooding, draught, forest fires, rising tides and melting glaciers. The resulting food shortage is pushing millions of people around the world into starvation
Added to this we have political turmoil here and around the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and its brutal targeting of civilian populations with missiles and bombs while the western world looks on, helpless to halt it, leads to a sense of pessimism that blatant evil may not be contained.
And closer to home, the political success of the far right through the use of blatant lies and rigid party adherence has stymied the democratic process. Social media has become the vehicle for hate speech, militant activism, and personal attacks. Issues of fundamental individual rights, such as a woman’s right to choose whether or not to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, or parental right to decide to allow their trans child to receive hormone treatment to become the person they know that they are, are being negated. And attempts to educate school children about the history of racism in this country have been caste as attempts to make white children feel ashamed and guilty.
And failure of a divided congress has left us without reasonable gun control laws, resulting in mass shootings in schools, churches, supermarkets- the most recent being the killing, by an 18 year old man, of 19 children and 2 adults in an Uvalde, TX elementary school. All of these threats have generated a tremendous increase in anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.
What does this have to do with the Academy? Frankly, I’m not sure, other than to say that the work we do is guided by a strong commitment to honesty, fairness, empathy, and respect for the complexity of human nature. In this spirit, the Academy will move forward through our meetings and programs to think and work together to improve our clinical skills and to better understand our patients and the confusing world we live in.
This year we have had a very successful virtual annual meeting, chaired by Drs Cesar Alfonso, MaryAnn Cohen, Xavier Jimemez, Sharon Batista, and Helen Ullrich. The meeting’s theme “How to Replenish a Passion for Medicine with Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Consultation-Liason Psychiatry” was rich and varied in content. Rebeca Brendel, MD, JD, the President-Elect of the APA gave a plenary lecture on Ethics, and Jennifer Sotsky,MD presented a second plenary on The Future of Medical Education. The keynote speaker was Rita Sharon, MD, the developer of narrative medicine, who spoke on that subject. The Presidential Address was given by outgoing Academy President Joanna Chambers, MD, and entitled “From Mourning and Melancholia to Neurobiology in an Era of Global Warming, Pandemic Disease, and Social Chasms: Grief as a Requisite for Change.”
Our next Annual Meeting, planned for May 2023 in San Francisco, will hopefully take place in person. Organized by co-chairs Drs Gerald Perman, J.J. Rasimas, Douglas Ingram, Danielle Patterson, Grace Cho, and William Butler. The theme, Race, Gender and Climate Have Entered the Chat: Psychodynamic Considerations, will focus on the psychodynamic/psychoanalytic impact of our current crises.
The monthly scientific presentations by distinguished clinicians, now in its third series, has been the creation of Dr. Jerry Perman. This program has been providing CME to our membership and non-members, with scholarly 90 minute lectures via Zoom.
The Academy has also supported several study groups. The Monthly Case Conference, chaired by Dr. John Tamerin, features the presentation of complex clinical material to a group of experienced clinicians for discussion.
The group initially examining the impact of the pandemic on the therapeutic space, chaired by Drs Douglas Ingram and Kim Best, is moving into exploring other aspects of covid’s effect on our work.
We are also in the process of putting together an Academy YouTube Channel which will provide recordings of lectures on topics of interest to our membership and to the general public. It is being developed by Dr. J.J. Rasimas.
The Academy is also establishing a special Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to be chaired by Dr. David Lopez. It will help us assess issues of unconscious racism and bias in ourselves and our organization and ways to deal with them.
We face great challenges as an organization, and it will require us working together to take them on. Please let me know your ideas and suggestions of how we should best move forward, and if you have a particular project you would like to be involved in. I will always be available at my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or my mobile number: 301-775-0429.
With best regards, Joe Silvio