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1981  William Dess, Ph.D.

Shortly before the annual installation banquet in January, 1981 when I assumed the Presidency of the Academy, our part-time secretary disappeared/quit without a word.  Accordingly, I assumed all coordinating activities for the annual banquet, while at the same time attempting to locate the Academy's records.  As the incoming President of the organization, it seemed somehow "relevant" to try and understand the basic organizational structure, the committees that were functioning, and indeed, who even belonged to the Academy.

The banquet came off well, but it was quickly apparent that our records and internal organization were in trouble.  Our records were in three or four unorganized boxes, with a membership directory that had not been updated for some time vis-à-vis active vs. inactive/non dues-paying members.  Therefore, one of the goals of my administration was set for me- improving the organization, efficiency, and effectiveness of the Academy itself through a complete internal reorganization/housecleaning.

It was also apparent during my year as President Elect that many Academy members felt cut-off from the Executive Board, and as having little impact on, or input to decisions that were made.  Accordingly I proposed two initiatives during that year that were implemented for 1981 when I became President- expanding the Executive Board by adding two Members at Large, and initiating a Fellows membership category for colleagues deserving of special recognition for their service to psychology, the community, and the Academy.  The first three members elected to this honor by the Board were Maury Zemlick, Javad Emami, and Tom MacSpeiden.

Moving to help make the Academy still more "user friendly", PIRS membership was opened in 1981 to any full member who desired to participate.  Previously, membership in PIRS (the Academy's referral service) was limited to a set number of participants, and someone had to discontinue their participation before a new member could join.  Therefore, conceivably, newer members might wait years before they could participate.

Other goals for 1981 were to improve the Academy's working relationship with the local Psychiatric Society, and to increase our political awareness/involvement regarding issues effecting the practice of our profession.

Importantly, 1981 saw the very beginning of Managed Care as we know it with the Champus Peer Review Project- a peer review system developed and promoted by our own APA for Champus and other insurance companies.  Unfortunately, there were many aspects of this program that were flawed, including limiting the number of sessions that could be exercised before peer review, reviewing and denying service retroactively, and one particular guideline that a psychologist could see only one member of a family in treatment at any one time.  In particular, the treatment model proposed did not appear to take into account particularly treating families and children.  The Academy, with the efforts of Dr, Robbie Zink, organized the first formal protest in the nation to the Champus Project, resulting in APA representatives of the Project coming to San Diego to meet with concerned Academy leaders and invited representatives from the State and National level.  The concerns expressed at that meeting and committed to writing in a formal letter were adopted in full by Division I of CPA, resulting in a task force on the State level to pursue the issues identified.  The Academy initiated a survey and gathered some of the first specific data regarding problems with the Project.  Subsequently, the Academy, in conjunction with Division I of CPA sponsored another larger meeting with State, APA and Champus representatives in San Diego, attended by 180 professionals. It appeared that, at least in part because of the Academy's initiatives and identification of issues, the flaws perceived in the system were being more clearly identified and some changes initiated, such as clarification that there was no strict policy against a psychologist seeing more than one member of a family.  One other tangible outcome to the Academy's efforts was that a full-time psychologist was hired by the Champus Fiscal Intermediary to assist in processing claims- a novel idea at that time. Little did we know then that we had seen (felt?) the very tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The Champus Project also served to promote greater contact and discussion with our psychiatric colleagues, with the hopes that we might one day unite in defense of our mutual freedom to practice in an ethical and effective manner.  In general, the Champus Peer Review Project and its impact on Academy members absorbed a great deal of the Academy's focus and time during 1981.

One of the "accomplishments" for which I am most proud in 1981 was hiring Barbara Severance for the vacant secretary/administrator position for the Academy.  Despite being hired for a half-time position, she and I spent countless hours together and often talked into the evening hours regarding organizational issues.  Largely because of her efforts, the Academy embarked on a path of efficiency, organization and effectiveness that served to greatly increase our membership, get more members involved in the organizational process, and make it possible for the Academy to become a more effective voice for psychology locally, State wide, and even on the National level.  Barbara and her (unpaid) husband, Dave, seemed always available to do whatever was needed or necessary to get a task accomplished, and subsequently provided the essential continuity for an increasingly effective organization over a number of years.

As 1981 drew to a close, it appeared that many more members were actively involved in the Academy, an efficient and effective organization had emerged, the Academy had contributed to, and made an impact on, the beginnings of what we now know as Managed Care, and many more psychologists were educated regarding the political process in general.  Because of the efforts of many individuals, and especially the Executive Board, the Academy membership increased by 25% that year.  The year ended with the installation of a new Executive Board, and with the gavel passed on to incoming President, Stuart Gilbreath, for 1982.


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