What's Hot: Your Guide to the APA 2019 Annual Meeting

Megan Brooks

May 13, 2019

Psychiatrists from around the world will gather in San Francisco, California, this weekend for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2019 annual meeting.

With roughly 15,000 attendees expected, this year's theme is Revitalize Psychiatry: Disrupt, Include, Engage and Innovate. The APA conference runs through May 22.

Revitalize reflects the opportunity for embracing change and psychiatrists' responsibility to pursue a more meaningful and compelling future for the field, APA President Altha Stewart, MD, explains in her welcome letter to attendees.

Disrupt represents action and change — "shaking things up, broadening our approach to the future, and being unafraid to take chances on different approaches in the field of psychiatry," said Stewart.

Include underscores the need to embrace diversity, address disparities, and work actively to increase access to mental health services for all.

Engage refers to identifying with those feeling disaffected and reaching out to psychiatrists, patients, trainees, and policymakers.

Innovate is deliberately broad to include new ideas in research, education, care, policy, and technology.

"I'm especially proud to have selected this as the theme and I think it is well reflected in the programming," Stewart said in a preview briefing with reporters.

"This year, APA has moved in directions we think better serve and engage our membership, allow us to be much more collaborative on the global scene as it relates to mental health, and we've made efforts to expand our work in the area of diversity and inclusion," said Stewart.

Celebrating 175 Years

The APA is marking the 175th anniversary of the founding of the organization. In 1844, 13 superintendents of institutions for people with mental illness came together with the purpose of improving the lives of their patients. They named their group the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane. In 1892, the Association's name was changed to the American Medico-Psychological Association; in 1921, the name changed again, to the current American Psychiatric Association.

"We are the first medical society in the United States. We are 3 years older than the AMA [American Medical Association]," Saul Levin, MD, CEO and medical director of the APA, told the briefing.

To honor the milestone, the APA meeting will feature special anniversary track programming that will delve into the history of psychiatry in the US as well as explore the future of psychiatry through research and delivery of care.

The APA's 175th anniversary gala will take place May 20 at 7 PM at San Francisco City Hall. Tickets may be purchased online.

Packed Program

Valerie Jarrett, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama who assisted in drafting the Affordable Care Act a decade ago, will speak during the Opening Session on Saturday. Jarrett has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, and was named among TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People" in 2013.

The Mental Health Innovation Zone, which showcases cutting-edge mental health technology, is back in 2019 by popular demand. Topics in the zone this year include virtual reality, artificial intelligence, digital innovation, and social media entrepreneurship. The Innovation Zone is located in the foyer of Hall A, Exhibition Level, Moscone South.

This year's meeting features nearly 1000 posters, over 650 sessions, more than 170 speakers, and 38 courses. 

"The APA annual meeting is the place to connect psychiatrists from around the world. Many of the greatest researchers and experts in the field of psychiatry from the United States and around the world will be there to present both lectures and new data in psychiatry and [discuss] where we are moving to in the biological and psychobehavioral parts of psychiatry," said Levin.

On May 20, the APA's third national poll on mental health will be released, providing a snapshot of Americans' level of anxiety; use and feelings about social media; and mental health in the workplace.

The meeting features tracks dedicated to addiction psychiatry; child and adolescent psychiatry; diversity and health equity; forensic psychiatry; geriatric psychiatry; psychopharmacology; and health reform and mental health parity of care.

Jacqueline Feldman, MD, APA scientific program chair, provided a rundown of some of her favorite scientific sessions:

  • Choosing the Right Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

  • Communicating Through Brains: Measuring and Modulating Brain Network Communication for Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Telepsychiatry to Achieve the Triple Aim

  • Policing and Mental Health: How Can Psychiatrists Help?

  • Treating Black Children and Families: What Are We Overlooking?

  • Medical Marijuana for Psychiatric Disorders: Is It High Time or Half-Baked?

  • Implications of Understanding the Mechanism of Action of Ketamine

  • From #Metoo to #TimesUP and the Role of Psychiatry

  • Mental Health Consequences of Separation for Immigrant Families

  • Mental Health Reform

  • Addressing Mass Violence in America: Causes, Impacts, and Solutions

  • The Opioid Epidemic: From Freud to Fentanyl

  • Using Stem Cell Models to Study Psychiatric Conditions: Update on Gene Editing Tools, Single Cell Transcriptomics, and Drug Responsiveness

  • A Web-Based Decision Aid Tool for Disclosure of Mental Ill Health in the Workplace: A Randomized Controlled Trial

  • What Cultural Assessment Can Contribute to Psychiatric Care in Two Settings: Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Treatment Course in San Diego

For the latest information and meeting updates, attendees are encouraged to download the APA Meetings App (psychiatry.org/app) and follow @APAPsychiatric on Twitter. Join the conversation and engage during the meeting using #APAAM19 and #APA175. Journalists from Medscape will be onsite throughout the meeting to report on key presentations.

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