What's Hot: Your Guide to APA 2017 Annual Meeting Highlights

Deborah Brauser

May 19, 2017

Under a warm San Diego sun, more than 11,000 clinicians are expected to attend the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2017 Annual Meeting, scheduled to kick off Saturday, May 20.

This year's theme is Prevention Through Partnerships. The meeting will include a total of 450 sessions, including symposia and interactive presentations, an annual performance from a psychiatrist who also happens to be a renowned concert pianist, talks from several celebrities, and an Innovation Zone, complete with demonstrations of how technology is transforming psychiatric care.

"We are learning more every day about risk factors and early signs of mental illness that can help us intervene and prevent more serious outcomes," APA President Maria A. Oquendo, MD, PhD, professor and chair of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, said during a premeeting webcast.

"We're also seeing profound changes in psychiatry, including more integration with primary care," added Dr Oquendo.

Saul Levin, MD, CEO and medical director of the APA, reported that the sessions this year are split among five tracks that encompass almost the entire field of psychiatry: children and adolescents, geriatrics, forensics, military, and addiction – especially focusing on the current opioid crisis.

"And there's much, much more. There isn't a topic in psychiatry that you won't find some presentation occurring on," said Dr Levin, noting that there will also be several discussions on current healthcare debates and legislature in the United States.

Key Speakers

"This will be a truly amazing meeting," agreed Scientific Program Chair Philip R. Muskin, MD, professor of psychiatry and chief of consultation-liaison psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, New York City.

He added that he's especially excited about two presentations. On Monday, May 22, at 5:30 pm, ABC's 20/20 co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas will share her struggles with anxiety and alcohol abuse. Afterward, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Nora Volkow, MD, will join Vargas onstage for a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Psychiatrist Richard Kogan will once again be giving a musical performance and leading a discussion a few days earlier, on Saturday, May 20, at 5:15 pm. A Juilliard-trained pianist and clinical professor of psychiatry who is also artistic director of the Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Program, Dr Kogan will be talking about and playing selections by composer Richard Schumann, who suffered from bipolar disorder.

"It is a stunning presentation," said Dr Muskin. "Dr Kogan will be performing one of [Schumann's] major pieces and will talk about how his mental illness really informed the music that he composed."

The meeting's official opening session kicks off Sunday, May 21, at 4:30 pm and includes a presentation by journalist Suzannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness. The book chronicles her experience with the rare anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis and the many misdiagnoses she initially received.

In addition, "we're offering attendees new ways of learning," said Dr Levin, pointing out that several interactive sessions will let attendees use smartphones or tablets to interact with the speaker. A long list of rapid fire talks will be similar to the ever-popular TED Talks.

Within the Frontiers of Science series, chef David Bouley will talk on Monday at 9:30 am about "living food," the differences between food right out of the ground and food bought in supermarkets, and "how ingredients can be combined to improve mental health," said Dr Muskin.

As part of the series, Konrad Michel, MD, University of Bern, in Switzerland, will discuss on Sunday, May 21, at 10 am how to improve treatment to engage patients who are suicidal so they don't harm themselves, and Erkki Isometsä, MD, PhD, University of Helsinki, Finland, will discuss at 1:30 pm how suicide risk research can translate into everyday practice.

Earlier in the day, at 8 am, Gil Zalsman, MD, Geha Mental Health Center near Tel Aviv, Israel, will talk about research models of ways to prevent suicide in young people.

"These are all really important for all of medicine, not just psychiatry," Dr Muskin said. "And adolescent suicide is a crucial issue ― and very timely with the Netflix series [ 13 Reasons Why ] that is going to be renewed for another season."

PsychPRO and a National Survey

Dr Levin also noted that PsychPRO, the national mental health registry created by the APA to allow psychiatrists to report patient outcomes, is currently in the pilot phase, with a number of practices already enrolled. There will be a booth in the APA's exhibit area where attendees can see for themselves how the registry works.

"PsychPRO will allow us to collect population-based data on particular illnesses, what the latest treatments being used are, and what the assessment tools are," he said.

"It's why Norway and Sweden have such good health outcomes. They've had a registry now for over 30 years on all aspects of population healthcare."

Other highlights mentioned by Dr Levin include a special diagnosis and treatment series in partnership with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and several sessions in partnership with NIDA – "including one on how psychiatrists can help patients with chronic pain."

In addition, results from the APA's second annual poll on various mental health topics will be released on May 22. The nationally representative survey of more than 1000 adults was created "to track how Americans' attitudes have changed between 2016 and 2017 on key issues, such as whether they think mental health is a priority with policy makers," said Dr Levin.

"I just think the entire meeting, right from Saturday through Wednesday afternoon, is going to be incredibly exciting," Dr Muskin concluded.

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