Dear AAGP Members,
This year is truly flying by. With the Summer being almost over leaving only six month before our 2024 Annual Meeting, I reach out to you excited to share the work AAGP leaders and members have been dedicated to these last few months, and what’s ahead for our organization. As president, I constantly remind myself that it is important to reflect on where we’ve been and build momentum for AAGP’s bright future. I am energized as our association moves forward this year at a rapid pace.
First, I want to share that the AAGP Board of Directors approved Tissy Greene to serve in the Executive Director role on an interim basis. As many of you know, Rebecca Morgan departed AAGP and Degnon Associates in April to pursue other endeavors. Tissy has 10 years of experience working with healthcare associations. Tissy has demonstrated commitment to the AAGP mission, and with her experience comes the talent and skill to further our efforts in the geriatric mental health space. I am sure you will all join me in welcoming Tissy to the role.
At the heart of AAGP’s values is a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. AAGP leadership has worked to evaluate that commitment in the recently published official DEI statement that can be found here, and is integrated into the strategic priorities of every AAGP committee. DEI must be at the forefront, no matter the context. The AAGP IDEA committee and AJGP recently released a new survey in an effort to understand the demographics and needs of the AAGP community. We seek to provide mentorship opportunities to marginalized groups as we all navigate the road to a more inclusive and equitable space. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey if you have not done so.
Looking at the year ahead, planning for our 2024 Annual Meeting is underway. The call for submissions recently closed for general session and clinical case presentations. We received a record number of submissions this year! The Program Planning Committee is working to review the considerable work you have all put in to curate the best possible educational program. We have opened our call for new research and early investigator poster submissions and encourage geriatric mental health professionals to share their knowledge and expertise. I also must mention that our 2024 Scholars application is now open! This rewarding program gives trainees the chance to attend specialized sessions at the annual meeting as well as professional growth opportunities. As leaders in our field, it is our duty to nurture the next generation of clinicians. I encourage all interested medical students and residents to apply and urge physician members to submit a donation or contribute time as a mentor.
Topics in brain health will be a new addition to the programming at our 2024 Annual Meeting. The focus on brain health and protective factors such as psychological and cognitive resilience, protective lifestyle factors like adequate sleep, nutrition, physical and mental activity, positive emotions, optimism training can be used to delay the onset of dementia. The World Health Organization recently released a position paper on brain health (WHO, 2022), that is defined as “the state of brain functioning across cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, behavioral and motor domains, allowing a person to realize their full potential over their life course, irrespective of the presence or absence of disorders”. If brain health is viewed as a determinant of mental health, this provides a simple linkage to help educate, align, and mobilize governmental agencies, healthcare organization and public. Brain health provides a constructive framework for prevention and promotion efforts, another area where mental health has lagged physical health. We are collaborating with other stakeholder organizations like the American Association of Neurology (AAN), the Alzheimer’s Association, the International Psychogeriatric Association (IPA), The World Psychiatric Association (WPA), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the American Heart Association (AHA), and the National Council on Mental Wellbeing.
Brain health can also reshape our legislative agenda from taking a defensive stance to being a leading voice for prevention and treatment of late-life neuropsychiatric disorders. In the recent years, we have worked collaboratively with other national and state organizations like the American Psychiatric Association and the California Medical Association to advocate on behalf of our members and our patients from attempts to limit access to care by limiting the ability to prescribe psychotropic medications in the long-term care settings. These restrictions have been imposed nationally through Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s (CMS) quality measure on antipsychotic use in nursing homes, which erroneously limits the use of antipsychotics to 3 diagnoses – schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, and Huntington’s disease– and at the state level like California’s Assembly Bill 48, which holds prescribers legally responsible for prescribing all psychotropic drugs (with the exception of antidepressants) without a written consent. While we acknowledge, the cases of inappropriate prescribing and diagnosis requiring greater oversight and training, limiting access to appropriately prescribed medications and criminalizing medicine will indiscriminately limit evidence-based care for the most vulnerable patients without a voice. The Public Policy Committee has been working on efforts to fight this legislation and we will continue to keep the membership up to date on our efforts.
AAGP has been working on the concept of a certificate program for several years and the Certificate Task Force’s hard work is coming to realization. This program has a planned release for the Spring of 2024 and will help us to adapt to the rapid changes in medicine and in technological innovations, and to apply a multi-pronged approaches to solve the upcoming challenges to maintain our membership and our workforce pipeline. The Certificate program will be used to train non-geriatric psychiatrists, non-psychiatric physicians and allied mental health professionals who are taking care of aging adults and their families.
For more information on the recent developments, please also see the Presidential Address – just published by the AJGP.
Thank you, now and always, for your passion and commitment to AAGP. It is an honor to serve as your president. I hope you enjoy these end of summer days. The best is yet to come!
Helen Lavretsky, MD, MS
President, American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry