Message from the President

Joanna E. Chambers, M.D.
AAPDPP President 2020-2022

A Time of Fatigue

Fatigue is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as ‘weariness or exhaustion from labor, exertion, or stress; or a state or attitude of indifference or apathy brought on by overexposure.’ Over the past 18 months, nothing has been routine. We have all learned how to function in a new world, with new priorities, new stressors, and new ways to cope. Early on in the pandemic, simple trips to the grocery store were stressful. We were risking our lives by being near other people, not yet fully understanding how Covid-19 was contracted. In addition, the most mundane of items such as toilet paper, paper towels, household cleaning products, and masks were all in short supply. In addition to surviving grocery store runs, we had to learn new technology in order to function at work and to connect with loved ones. Many suffered significant losses in their lives. As we adjusted to these changes, we simultaneously were faced with pressures of increasing hours of Zoom meetings, often working in stretches of 8-10 hours per day with only a few interruptions. Many of us had additional responsibilities of supporting our children, attending to their virtual learning and other needs, while attending to our work schedules in the same space. The virtual interactions were a way to stay connected, yet were exhausting at the same time.

Adjusting to change and stress with resilience is easier when there is a known time limit to the stressor. When the pandemic began and everyone was sent home, we hunkered down in our homes, in isolation, and in earnest, finding ways to make it work. We thought it was just for a month or two. However, 18 months later, as we are now entering the fourth wave of the pandemic, our resilience is wearing thin. “How much longer can this go on?” we ask. Patience, empathy, and understanding are more difficult to access when fatigued.

Adapting to change and stress for such an extended period of time can certainly cause fatigue. However, I believe that an additional cause for our fatigue is the social isolation in which we have all found ourselves. Ultimately, it is the relationships at work that make our work meaningful. In psychiatry, this is particularly true, but I believe it is true in any field of work. Connecting to other people is what makes us human. We need human interaction in the same way that we need nutrition. In describing virtual school, my 15-year old daughter eloquently stated “it is like starving and being served a large plate of plastic food.” I imagine that in many ways we have all been dealing with our own version of “plastic food” through the past 1.5 years and are left feeling wanting, empty, and… fatigued by the experience. While interacting on screen has its merits, it is not the same as being in the same room with other people. Ultimately, we are left fatigued and ‘zoomed out’.

In addition to feeling fatigued, many of us have suffered tremendous losses. Our Academy recently lost a vital member, mentor, and Past President, Dr. Matthew Tolchin, who passed away on May 15, 2021. Dr. Tolchin was President of the Academy from 2001-2002 and he was a dear friend and mentor to many members. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Dr. Joan Tolchin, also member of the Academy, Past President, and recent liaison to OPIFER, as we mourn his loss.

The fatigue we all feel is real and I hope that, like our children who are restarting school in person, we will eventually find our way back to each other, bringing a renewed energy, hope, and inspiration to our work. This may take some time as we will need to first safely endure this current wave of viral infections. Meanwhile, as we recognize the fatigue that is palpable in all of us, I hope that we find ways to rebuild the stamina, endurance, resilience, patience and empathy needed to continue the important mission of our work.

To that end, the Strategic Planning Task Force, led by Dr. Kim Best and Dr. Jeffrey Katzman, is in the process of making their final recommendations for future change. Many of our members have participated in the work of the four subgroups: Membership, Diversity, Finances, and Technology and Communication. We are so grateful for you who have participated in guiding our initiatives in each of these areas in order to move the Academy forward. Your voices and collective vision are imperative to advance the mission of the Academy. I look forward to working with the Executive Council and our President-Elect, Dr. Joe Silvio, to begin implementation of the many wonderful suggestions of our members.

As many of you are aware, the Annual Meeting of the Academy took place virtually over the weekend of April 23 and 24. With the work and leadership of Dr. Joe Silvio, our Chair of Scientific Programs, Dr. Kim Best, Dr. Jessica Eisenberg, and Dr. Sarah Noble, our Program Co-Chairs, and their committee, a virtual program provided opportunities for learning, teaching, and collaborating. The virtual meeting was a huge success and allowed for us to learn together in a new way. Approximately 90 trainees attended the meeting, which was possibly a record for the Academy!

Plans for the 2022 65th Annual meeting are already underway under the leadership of Dr. Cesar Alfonso, Dr. Mary Ann Cohen, Dr. Xavier Jimenez, Dr. Sharon Batista, and Dr. Helen Ullrich. The theme is extremely timely: “How to Replenish a Passion for Medicine: Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.” This will also be a virtual meeting as we are still unsure of what the world will look like in the coming year. Like so many of our experiences through the pandemic, this meeting will be unique in several ways. First, the program will be virtual and unlike previous in-person meetings where two tracks are offered, the virtual format allows for only one track. The five co-Chairs of the Program all have consult-liaison psychiatry experience and interests and therefore took responsibility for developing a part of the program of special interest to each of them, recruiting experts from within the Academy membership as well as outside the Academy to be speakers. This was quite different from our usual program planning process and therefore left little room for additional submissions to the program. Hence, no call for papers will be sent out this fall. It is our hope that anyone who was unable to submit a proposal for the 2022 Annual Program will plan to do so for the 2023 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, which will likely be in person and follow the usual process for submissions. The 2022 Program is sure to be exciting and will undoubtedly invigorate our passions in our field. We very much look forward to meeting virtually in 2022 with hopes of being together in person in 2023.

In addition to the upcoming virtual Annual Meeting, other opportunities for social connectedness and intellectual pursuit have been underway. Dr. Jerry Perman developed an annual schedule of monthly CME presentations, which have been extremely successful. Dr. Perman’s musical talents, which mark the end to each presentation, has lent a moment of fun, creativity, and bonding to these virtual meetings. Dr. Perman has already arranged a schedule for the coming academic year. If you have not yet attended one of these presentations, I encourage you to do so. They are intellectually stimulating and a nice way to “see” other members of the Academy. In addition, the following presentations will be open for non-members for CME for a fee. We look forward to welcoming others in the field who may have an interest in psychodynamic and psychoanalytic topics who may not yet have discovered the benefits of the Academy!

In addition to Dr. Perman’s initiative, Dr. John Tamerin and I have co-led a Case Conference Series which began in November. Each month, we discuss a case, creating an opportunity for the group members to get to know each other and learn from each other in a warm and collegial way. While this is a closed group, we hope that this will serve as a model for others who may wish to consider engaging in similar virtual groups.

Our publications continue to serve the membership of the Academy through a variety of ways. Dr. Jeffery Tuttle has joined Dr. Alicia McGill as co-Editors of the Academy Newsletter. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, under the expert leadership of Dr. Jennifer Downey and Dr. Cesar Alfonso as Co-Editors in Chief, has undergone many positive changes. Debbie Katz now serves as Deputy Editor. In addition, six Associate Editors have been named (Drs. Clarice Kestenbaum, Richard Brockman, Mary Ann Cohen, Bernard Gorman, Ahron Friedberg, Norman Clemens), along with an International Advisory Board of 16 members to complement the editorial board of 64 members. In addition, we are grateful for Dr. Ahron Friedberg who continues to serve as the Editor of the Forum.

We are also grateful for Dr. Doug Ingram who leads a study group on the therapeutic space. This group will look at the impact that the place or medium may have on the process of therapy. This is an extremely timely project and will explore components of treatment such as empathy, ethnicity and culture, and the use of telepsychiatry, among many other theoretical components of therapeutic space.

Our endeavors in education continue as the Teichner Award provides ongoing support for underserved programs across the US. In addition, Dr. Allan Tasman is leading the Long-Distance Learning Project, with additional support from the Laughlin Fund, with last year’s Teichner Award winner. Also in the spirit of working with residents and Early Career Psychiatrists, the Academy has responded to requests by the American Academy of Directors of Residency Training (AADPRT) with a new initiative to begin in the coming year. A monthly Case Conference Series for psychodynamic psychotherapy supervisors will support the programs that need help with psychotherapy supervision and teaching. This series will consist of a panel of Academy members who have an interest in helping supervisors learn how to supervise. This request came about due to the fact that many residency programs place young and often inexperienced faculty in positions of supervision. While these junior faculty want to teach and support their residents, they may not have enough psychodynamic experience to feel competent in their teachings. This will allow them to get to know and learn from members in the Academy.

The Academy Website will be undergoing changes as well. A calendar has been added to the website where anyone can see the dates and times various meetings occur. Part of the rationale for his was to help all of us keep track of the various upcoming meetings, while also increasing transparency and encourage engagement among the members. We hope that you will use the calendar and ask about any meeting that evokes curiosity!

While we have all been affected by many challenges over the past year and half, and though we may be suffering from various forms of fatigue, we are embracing the upcoming changes in our world and I feel extremely grateful to be working with you, the members of the Academy. So many positive changes are occurring in the Academy and with your help, we continue to move forward. Your creativity and insight are very much appreciated as we navigate the future together.

As always, I sincerely invite each and every one of you to contact me at any time with suggestions, with questions, with answers, with your thoughts and sentiments.