SPPAC 2024 Highlights

SPPAC 2024: Reflections From Our Chair Naadira C. Upshaw, PsyD, ABPP

SPPAC 2024 will always be one of the most memorable highlights of my career! Our theme this year centered around defining what is next and the future of Pediatric Psychology. The conference was curated to include the lessons learned during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that was juxtaposed with the inflection point in the social justice movement in 2020. Our practice was called to rapidly shift and mobilize during this time to respond to the social justice movement and to care for our patients and their families, as well as advocate for the wellbeing of ourselves and our colleagues. Going back to “normal” is not possible, instead it feels time to define our new “normal.” We were truly overwhelmed, but not surprised, by the amazing work that was submitted for the conference. SPPAC is not possible without the work that our attendees submit. The oral and poster submissions were rounded out by 3 amazing plenary speakers, Drs. Maysa Akbar, Ruben Parra-Cardona, and Jacqueline Mattis. The selection of these plenaries was intentional, as they guided us through the following questions: let’s think about where the future is going as it relates to our practice and what is our governing body of APA doing; how is this work being implemented on the ground in our research and practice; and finally, how do we reconcile the delicate balance of hope for the future and the realities of the hardships we face now?

While I am proud of the content of our SPPAC 2024, what brings me most joy has been the sense of community, inclusion, and belonging that so many people shared with me. We had several first-time attendees who described feeling that the conference this year was warm and welcoming. I even met an undergraduate student who told me, “On Tuesday, I did not know where my career was going, and today, I have a much clearer picture. This opportunity changed my life.” I also heard from so many veteran attendees who shared that this conference felt different, in a good way. The energy was one that made so many feel like SPP was their professional home again. We might also admit that the special touches of the second line band, king cake for snack break, and beads as lanyards may have also had an impact. Or maybe it was the fantastic execution of the service events by the Committee on Service. We could also posit that it was the opportunities that many folx had to connect and network or see old friends that have not been to SPPAC in some time. There are many things that might have contributed to this feeling. If you ask me, I think it is the people and our decision to collectively channel the energy of over 1000 attendees to make a commitment to define the future of pediatric psychology with a deep appreciation of the history that laid the foundation for where we are today and that we will carry forward with us. That feels electrifying to me.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this space as your conference chair. The feeling of speaking in front of all of you and all our one-on-one conversations is something I will never forget. I have hope for our profession and its ability to rise to the call for social justice, advocacy, relevance, practice, and science. I am excited to see what comes next for us as a society and I am thrilled to be passing the baton for SPPAC 2025 to Dr. Lauren Harrison. I feel confident that she will bring the energy from this year and continue with the momentum to curate a fantastic conference experience in Phoenix! I will be there cheering her on and carrying the hope for our future in pediatric psychology.

In Gratitude,
Naadira C. Upshaw, PsyD, ABPP
2024 SPPAC Conference Chair