The AAP is a professional society dedicated to the advancement of psychiatric education and of professional development, scholarship, and leadership in academic psychiatry. The AAP serves to foster excellence, commitment, and interest in academic psychiatry through educational innovation, research, and collegial dialogue and collaboration.
The Mission Statement of the Association for Academic Psychiatry (AAP)
Most psychiatric organizations direct their attention to various realms within the practice of psychiatry (e.g., cutting-edge research, new pharmaceutical developments, and innovations in clinical practice). The role of the Association for Academic Psychiatry (AAP) is distinct, focusing instead on innovations in teaching, robust academic career mentorship, and the development and promotion of academic leaders. Many prominent leaders in psychiatry have been or are intricately involved in the AAP. Most notably, many who served as president of the AAP have gone on either to serve as president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) or to fulfill other key leadership positions nationally (e.g., in the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology [ABPN] and as the chair of APA’s Scientific Program Committee [SPC]).
The AAP’s modest size lends itself to a culture of “readily welcoming newcomers into the fold,” where a plethora of individualized career development opportunities await. The organization’s rich tradition of academic networking among psychiatric educators at all stages of development is particularly effective. Young, inexperienced academicians, filled with enthusiasm, technical savvy, and a strong desire to succeed, build collaborative relationships with mid-level and senior-level academicians, who bring an eagerness to harness this youthful energy through active mentorship and collaboration. This interchange of skill and talent creates a vital and thriving environment for growth and rejuvenation. Many arrive at the annual meeting depleted by their respective challenging responsibilities but depart refreshed and excited about the possibilities!
The AAP has touched many lives in significant ways. One past president of both the AAP and APA describes:
One of my first roles in the AAP was as editor-in-chief of the AAP newsletter. Two terrific mentors helped me build on previous experience in writing for newsletters and newspapers and encouraged me to take on the editor role for the AAP. It was a lot of work but helped me learn a lot about the organization, interact with colleagues across the country, and use the newsletter for membership recruitment and retention. This was a wonderful example of how supportive the AAP was in giving so much responsibility to a junior faculty member. I also had wonderful mentors and role models guiding my survey design, methodology, and publishing. Our work formed the basis of several presentations at national scientific meetings and chapters, articles, and books related to the subject of women and academia.
Another past president of the AAP and former chair of the APA SPC relates:
The AAP allowed me to meet the true “movers and shakers” of psychiatry. When I started to do things at APA, I knew folks and they knew me. When it came time for promotion, I had friends who were professors, chairs, and past presidents of important organizations. The AAP challenged me to think about my teaching and to do it better! One colleague made me realize that experts become poor teachers because they perform their skills unconsciously and stop being able to describe what it is they do. Finally, the AAP accepts each person for who s/he is. The AAP is a place to share a love of teaching. All you have to do to get into the “club” is to do the work. No other organization on earth does this.
A member of the curriculum development committee of the AAP remembers:
I first went to the AAP on the advice (and funding) of a former training director. I hadn’t realized that there were meetings like this—devoted to the process of teaching. I met the webmaster at that first meeting and shared my interest with him about electronic education—the next thing I knew, he made me the “co-webmaster.” The AAP has been a constant source of inspiration and support. I’ve been able to directly incorporate innovative learning methods into my teaching at home.
Our program chair shares: “The AAP offered training that was not available elsewhere through its Master Educator Series. I learned important information about curriculum, assessment, and evaluation. I’ve also found a safe place to try new things where it will not haunt me back home if it does not go well.”
I can relate to many of these experiences. My former chairman insisted that I join the AAP as a junior faculty member. There I met a colleague who mentored me in my early days in consultation-liaison psychiatry and taught me how to effectively negotiate a change in my career to be congruent with my passions and with achieving promotion and tenure. If it were not for her, I would have burned out and failed in academia. Relationships built through AAP networking have enriched my life!
Some selected highlights from annual meetings include:
Unforgettable skits on “how not to teach,” revealing teaching blunders we all commit
Traditional night-out excursions (e.g., to art museums, aquariums, group square-dancing lessons, river boat excursions, and Latin dance exhibition/class) that dissolve barriers and facilitate the establishment of genuine friendships
A forum for “works in progress,” where formal mentoring and open discussion with participants provide constructive feedback to presenters to facilitate manuscript acceptance
“How to publish” workshops with journal editors
Negotiation workshops to build essential skills to succeed and thrive academically
Technical skills development workshops to facilitate the effective incorporation of technological innovations into teaching
Individualized career-coaching opportunities to fine-tune presentation skills
Focused development of measures for core competencies in residency training
Workgroups in psychosomatic medicine, geriatrics, medical education, child psychiatry, and clinician-educator issues to collaborate on shared projects (often resulting in academic publications)
The development and posting of shared academic teaching materials (e.g., educational cases and videos) for posting on the AAP Web site for members
A 2-year intensive Master Educator Series
Opportunities for collaboration on educational research
Mentoring future academic leaders and overseeing their development in psychiatry
In addition, talented psychiatric educators receive international recognition at the AAP when they are chosen for highly competitive teaching awards. Awards range from early career awards to mid-career regional awards to lifetime achievement awards. This level of recognition is vital for clinician educators who submit academic portfolios for promotion and tenure. A growing emphasis within the AAP is to organize momentum to build recognition and esteem for gifted academic educators within their home academic institutions.
Healthy mentorship is contagious. Being the recipient of effective mentoring is the best catalyst for becoming an effective mentor. The AAP is a vital home to return to year after year throughout the life cycle of an academic career. There are few things more rewarding than working with friends and colleagues to share a collective energy to make a difference in the lives of our students and in the future of psychiatric education.