As the population ages and psychiatric patients develop more comorbid conditions, the field of psychiatry will come in closer contact with other medical specialties, according to Kenneth R. Silk, M.D., Chair of the 2012 APA Scientific Program Committee. This year’s meeting is about preparing for and embracing that change, while also celebrating how vital and wide-ranging the psychiatric specialty has become.
“I hope the meeting will remind more people that psychiatry is a part of medicine,” said Dr. Silk, who worked closely with Committee Co-chair Michael F. Myers, M.D., and the rest of the committee and the APA staff to plan this year’s scientific sessions. The meeting’s theme — integrated care — reinforces Dr. Silk’s strongly held belief that the psychiatry profession must broaden its outlook.
“We are part of the medical community, and first and foremost we are physicians,” Dr. Silk said. “Even if we see ourselves as psychiatric physicians, we are still a part of that larger medical community. I think that will be evident at the meeting, especially if one thinks of the scientific basis of psychiatric practice.”
After two full days of sessions, the meeting unofficially kicks off at Sunday’s Opening Session, which has been reworked this year into a discussion format featuring Aaron Beck, M.D., and Glen Gabbard, M.D. The two experts will discuss the session’s central question, “Cognitive Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy: More Alike Than Different?” The two-hour session, which will be moderated by APA President John M. Oldham, M.D., will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Terrace Ballroom, Fourth Floor, Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Dr. Silk said the concept for the discussion format came from Dr. Oldham, who attended a similar session at a medical meeting in Argentina. The new format presented several logistical challenges, and Dr. Silk credited the APA staff for solving each one.
“The staff knows what needs to be done and they are more than willing to do what they must to make it happen,” Dr. Silk said. “And they are not just willing, they are excited that this session is occurring. That’s been my experience over and over again. It really has made the planning process fun.”
Dr. Silk, who is Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan and Director of the Personality Disorders Program in the University of Michigan Health System, has served on the Scientific Program Committee for two three-year terms. This is his first year as chairperson.
The process of selecting the educational lectures, symposia and workshops for the program is a time-consuming and lengthy one, he said. The diverse topics covered this year include neuroscience, schizophrenia, law in psychiatry, ethics, military psychiatry, personality disorders and issues in diagnosis.
The APA president chooses the meeting’s theme every year, and some sessions are solicited to cover the theme and other trending topics. Additional tracks are chosen based on interest at previous meetings, such as this year’s military track, which was well received last year in Hawaii. Other tracks emerge from submitted abstracts. Each abstract is scored by at least two reviewers.
The committee then puts together tracks based on scores of the individual abstracts. The committee also collaborated with the Scattergood Program for the Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare and The Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation to develop an ethics track. The track features two symposia, 12 workshops and one seminar over the five days of the meeting.
“This is the first time we’ve had an ethics track and Scattergood seems interested in doing that each year at the APA,” Dr. Silk said. “They have been great in their willingness and enthusiasm to be a part of the meeting.”
Another important APA partner is the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which is once again sponsoring a track at the Annual Meeting, “Integrating Treatment for Alcohol Problems and Co-occurring Conditions in Psychiatric Care: Challenges and Successes.” The track includes five symposia, a forum, five workshops and two lectures.
“I know from past meetings that the quality of what the NIAAA presents is superb. Those sessions have always been well attended,” said Dr. Silk, who has attended the APA Annual Meeting for more than 30 years. “Substance use and misuse and now prescription drug — particularly pain drug misuse — is a major problem in our society and this is an opportunity for attendees to get current and appreciate the extent of that problem.”
Another topic area that Dr. Silk is excited about this year will feature updates on DSM-5, which is due to be published next year. Ten symposia, a forum and a lecture are scheduled to cover various facets of DSM-5.
“A lot of people rely on the press and what is said in the national media about DSM-5,” Dr. Silk said. “This will give people a chance to hear what is actually happening. There may be some early — or not so early — results from field trials that people will be able to hear, and I think they’ll appreciate all the work and deliberations that have gone into the DSM-5.”
Organizing five days of sessions on such a wide array of topics can be challenging for the committee, Dr. Silk said. It can be even more challenging for attendees trying to decide which sessions to attend. This is also a problem for the Chair of the Scientific Program Committee, Dr. Silk, who is a personality disorder specialist.
“I am always caught between going to meetings on personality disorders to make myself even more current and to see my friends, who often present in those sessions. Or do I go to sessions that I know absolutely nothing about?” Dr. Silk said. “I may not get another chance for a year to hear people present on those topics. I can go to journals and read about them, but to see and listen to the major players here is a unique opportunity. I feel like that kind of conflict is terrific.”