What's Hot: Your Guide to APA 2015 Annual Meeting Highlights

Caroline Cassels

May 14, 2015

TORONTO — Psychiatrists from around the world will head to the Great White North (aka Canada) this weekend to attend the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 168th Annual Meeting in Toronto.

Philip Muskin, MD, scientific program committee chair for the APA, discussed the upcoming meeting with Medscape Medical News to give delegates an overview of the conference's highlights; he also provided a nota bene regarding travel to Canada.

Your Passport: Don't Leave Home Without It

"The last time the APA meeting was in Canada was 2006, and many US docs don't realize that you now need a passport to enter the country. Also, delegates from countries other than the US may well require a visa," said Dr Muskin.

"We just want to alert people that this is now a requirement, because it would be so painful if people show up without a passport and are turned away. So if you haven't been to Canada for a while, pull out your passport and make sure it's up to date," he added.

With that bit of business out of the way Dr Muskin went on to discuss what promises to be an "interesting and eclectic" meeting.

Music and Musings

With more than 500 sessions and a record-setting 800 posters, the conference kicks off on Saturday, May 16, with a full day's programming that begins at 8:00 am.

On Saturday evening at 5:30 pm, there is a special performance by Richard Kogan, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City, and codirector of the center's Human Sexuality Program.

In addition to his medical career, Dr Kogan is artistic director of the Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Program as well as a renowned concert pianist. This year, Dr Kogan will speak about, and perform, the music of Frederic Chopin.

"Dr Kogan is superb performer. I first heard Richard perform when we were both lecturing at a state hospital. He performed on an in-house piano that I think was held together with Scotch Tape, but he was impressive nonetheless," said Dr Muskin.

Dr Philip Muskin

Dr Muskin added that Dr Kogan's performances have been a staple at the APA annual meeting for many years and that they are so well attended it's standing room only. To accommodate the largest crowd possible, the conference planning committee has reserved the John Bassett Theatre in the Toronto Convention Center, which has a capacity of about 1300 people.

Psychiatry Under the Nazis

Sunday, May 17, at 4:30 pm marks the official opening session of the APA annual meeting with a Special Conversation, moderated by outgoing APA president Paul Summergrad, MD, and featuring Helen S. Mayberg, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry, neurology, and radiology at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, and pioneer in deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression, and the Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, a long-time advocate for mental health parity. The title of their discussion is Science, Advocacy and Talking About Mental Health.

"This should be a fascinating discussion. Patrick J. Kennedy will talk about the funding of mental health research and mental health services, and Dr Mayberg will discuss neuroscience and where cutting-edge research is leading us in terms of understanding the depressed brain," said Dr Muskin.

Another of the meeting highlights, said Dr Muskin, is a special poster session led by Frank Schneider, MD, PhD, past president of the German Association for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (DGPPN), entitled Psychiatry Under National Socialism, on Saturday, May 16, at 9:00 am.

In this unique presentation, Dr Schneider will review the role of psychiatrists under the Nazi regime and the atrocities they committed against the mentally ill. In November 2011, the DGPPN held a commemorative event to remember all those who suffered under national socialist rule at the hands of German psychiatric institutions.

In a speech delivered at that time, Dr Schneider, who was then president of the DGPPN, apologized for psychiatry's participation in this suffering.

"Under National Socialism, psychiatrists showed contempt towards the patients in their care; they lied to them and deceived them and their families. They forced them to be sterilized, arranged their deaths, and even performed killings themselves. Patients were used as test subjects for unjustifiable research ― research that left them traumatized or even dead," he said.

Dr Schneider's presentation at the APA annual meeting will illustrate through various posters psychiatry's dark history during this time.

"This is going to be a fascinating session," said Dr Muskin. He noted that although the presentation is historic in nature, it is relevant today, inasmuch as it raises questions about controversial issues in the United States, including the role of psychiatrists in executions.

APA's Got Soul

This year's meeting theme, said Dr. Muskin, is Integrating Mind, Body, Heart, and Soul. He notes that an excellent example of soul is a prerecorded feature interview with Ram Dass conducted by Dr Summergrad.

A well-known spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, formerly known as Richard Alpert, PhD, was a prominent Harvard psychologist who, with Timothy Leary, PhD, conducted research into the potential therapeutic effects of psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin and LSD, in the 1960s.

Dr Muskin described the interview as "superb" and encouraged delegates to make time for this event, which will take place on Tuesday, May 19, at 11:00 am.

Also of note, said Dr Muskin, is a screening of the film The Anonymous People. A synopsis on the documentary's website notes that it is about the more than 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs and the associated "social stigma and discrimination [that] have kept recovery voices silent and faces hidden for decades."

The 2-hour session, which starts on Sunday, May 17, at 12:30 pm, will include a screening of the film and a follow-up discussion with hosts George Koob, PhD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute of Drug Addiction.

Cutting-Edge Research

Dr Muskin also noted several "cutting-edge, best of the best" research sessions that are likely to be of widespread interest. These include the following:

Advances in Psychodynamic Therapy

Sunday, May 17, at 1:00 pm

Chaired by Elizabeth Auchincloss, MD

Presentations in this session include the following:

  • The therapeutic alliance in contemporary psychiatry: New developments

Elizabeth Auchincloss, MD

  • Psychodynamic treatment of personality disorders: Evolving perspectives on interpretation

Eve Caligor, MD

  • Transformations of the developmental process: Human development in the technocultural era

Karen J. Gilmore, MD

  • The classification of personality disorders: New developments

Otto F. Kernberg, MD

The Latest Research and Clinical Information Regarding Major Psychiatric Disorders

Monday, May 18, at 9:00 am

Chaired by Herbert Pardes, MD, and Jack Barchas, MD

Presentations in this session include the following:

  • Pathways to new treatments in autism spectrum disorder

Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, MD

  • Schizophrenia 2014: From genes to mechanisms of illness

Daniel R. Weinberger, MD

  • Understanding and effectively managing anxiety in the transition to young adulthood

Anne M. Albano, PhD

  • Advances in research in mood disorders: New opportunities, new treatments

Andrew A. Nierenberg, MD

  • New research on personality disorders

John M. Oldham, MD

Illuminating the Brain

Monday, May 18, at 11:00 am

Presenter: Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, DH Chen Professor in the Bioengineering and Psychiatry Departments at Stanford University, in California

Modeling Neuropsychiatric Disorders Using Human Stem Cells

Tuesday, May 19, at 9:00 am

Presenter: Fred H. Gage, PhD, Adler Chair in the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute

American Psychiatric Association (APA) 168th Annual Meeting.

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