Presidential Letter

SPP Presidential Column – March 2023 

Happy 2023 SPP members! I hope you have had a fantastic start to your year. I am beyond humbled to write my first presidential column and start my year in leading this tremendous organization. Before talking to you about the year so far and what you can expect to see in the year ahead, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to the 2022 SPP board led by Laura Simons. 2022 had many highs and lows for the SPP board and we were guided masterfully by Laura. Our organization is in a better place today due to the commitment and hard work of last year’s board members – thank you!

So who am I: I am the Division Head of Pediatric Psychology at Connecticut Children’s where I also serve as the Clinical Director for the Pediatric Obesity Center and the Associate Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  My research is focused on how we move from a “one size fits all” approach to obesity management to tailoring interventions to comorbidities. I had what some might consider an untraditional route to becoming a pediatric psychologist. I started off in community college not really sure what I wanted to do when I grew up.  As a first generation scholar, the whole college scene was completely unnerving, but with good mentoring and support, I left Connecticut and headed to Texas where I received my PhD in Counseling Psychology from Texas Tech University. I completed an internship and postdoc in HIV at the Medical College of Georgia and a second postdoc in school and pediatric psychology at the Institute of Living/Connecticut Children’s. Afterward, I worked for several years as a health psychologist before making my way back to Connecticut Children’s to help launch their pediatric obesity center. In 2013, I attended my first SPPAC and was blessed to find my home within the Obesity SIG before having the good fortune to serve as SPP’s Member at Large for Diversity. It has been a winding road for sure, but one I was glad to have. I hope I will get to see old friends and new faces (especially Counseling Psychology students!) at this year’s SPPAC in Chicago.

MidWinter Meeting: The SPP Board of Directors met in late January for our annual midwinter meeting in Denver, Colorado. Our focus was on how we continue to make SPP a thriving organization. It also gave us a chance to have our first in-person meeting with EDI. As we previously communicated, we have transitioned to a new association management company and are beyond thrilled to be partnering with EDI to advance our organization.

At our meeting we focused on several key areas of work, and we will continue to update you on our progress throughout the year. These key areas included:

  • Ways that we can continue to keep members engaged and retained, such as by holding town halls to understand the unique needs of each career stage and how SPP can best support members at each career stage.
  • Launching a task force led by our current and previous treasurers to focus on our fiscal responsibility and financial stewardship. They will be looking at everything from how much we spend on awards, how much we charge for membership, registration fees for SPPAC, and whether we are spending our money the way that we want to be.
  • Examining whether we have the right composition for SPP and its board. We will be drafting and publishing an organizational chart, revising our Board of Directors manual, and revising our bylaws. Stay tuned for how you will be involved in changes to our bylaws.
  • Increasing communication between the board and our members. We hope to publish condensed meeting minutes from board meetings so you can stay informed. We also held our first Town Hall at the midwinter meeting – thanks to all who joined! Look for monthly office hours with the board throughout the rest of 2023.
  • Launching a new work group to find ways to conduct a more efficient version of the workforce survey. Stay tuned for that call!
  • Evaluating the role that SPP should play as an ombudsperson to raise awareness and assist with mediating challenges or complaints within pediatric psychology.
  • Launching a new committee – Practice Education Advocacy and Research (PEAR) - to disseminate more tangible bits of information to SPP members.

Presidential Initiative: Additionally, at this year’s midwinter meeting, I spoke to the board about my personal vision of what I would like to focus on this year as President. With their support, we have launched the 2023 SPP Presidential Task Force on Social Justice in Pediatric Psychology. So what will this consist of? Well, your voices and your ideas. I’ll share where I come into this work, but the goal of this task force is to solidify an impactful agenda of work that’s informed by our members.

For me, advancing an agenda in social justice means we:

  • Look to define what pediatric psychology is and what it should consist of.
  • Focus on increasing communication and opportunities within our organization, and remove things that we do “just because” to allow opportunities for all.
  • Include the voices of patients and families whom we are all so fortunate to serve.
  • Maintain a community of wellbeing for pediatric psychology, understanding that as we have navigated multiple pandemics and institutional focuses on DEI and wellbeing, these efforts have fallen square on the shoulders of psychologists. How do we make sure we are okay to do this work?
  • Hold ourselves accountable for missteps and look to create a field that recognizes the vast intersectional identities of ourselves, our work, our patients and families, and our community.
    I welcome anyone interested in the presidential task force and being involved in the conversation to complete this form:

We recently also closed our 2023 SPP Social Justice Mini Grant Mechanism. Each year the SPP president is allotted $1,000 to spend on anything related to their presidential initiative. We asked you how SPP can best leverage that $1,000 towards advancing social justice. We are reviewing applications now and can’t wait to share the winning idea at SPPAC and in a future Progress Notes!

Finally, for those attending SPPAC in Chicago (register here), we will have our “Business Meeting” on Thursday at 5pm. We have moved this meeting from the APA conference to SPPAC to improve transparency, and we hope you will consider attending if you are at the conference.

I’m humbled to be in this role, and I look forward to serving you all over the next year. Please do not hesitate to reach out at any time if I can be of assistance in any way. I welcome you to share if you have any concerns, ideas, or thoughts on how we advance SPP together.

Be well.

Melissa Santos, SPP President