Just two weeks after Arthur C. Evans, PhD, took the helm of APA, he was thrust onto a stage in front of more than 450 APA staff members to talk about his vision for the association. He surprised the audience with a multiple-choice quiz about his favorite food and musical performer (lasagna and Dolly Parton, in case you were wondering) but he also sent a clear message: APA’s next chapter will be focused on making psychologists and psychology more visible to the general public.
“In my experience, people have a very limited view of psychology,” Evans said in an interview shortly after his first day as chief executive officer of APA. “They don’t understand the full range of research and science in the discipline. They should know the full impact of what we do, whether it’s in the media, in Congress or at the state level.”
Injecting psychology into the national conversation about public health and wellness is not just about treating the individual, he says, but about focusing on how psychology can have an impact on communities and society, making it relevant to people of all backgrounds.
Similarly, he says, being a member of APA is important for psychologists to feel connected and heard. “There are a lot of benefits of APA – the networking, the publications,” he said. “I’m interested in how to use the existing infrastructure and bring it into the age of Google and Amazon and Apple and make it really easy for people to benefit from all the resources we have.”
Before APA, Evans spent 12 years as commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, where he was widely recognized for transforming the city’s mental health system, improving its efficiency and changing lives. He invested heavily in empirically supported treatments and worked to implement evidence-based practices. At APA, he would like to continue finding ways to focus on and emphasize the science of the field. “I’d like to reach out to the science community who left APA or have elected not to join because they don’t perceive it as a place for them. I want every psychologist, no matter what they do, to feel like this is the place they should be.”
And he’s already making sure psychologists’ voices are heard. At the recent round of consolidated meetings in Washington, D.C., Evans encouraged members to speak up about their work, and will continue to do that as he travels around the country and the world on behalf of APA and psychology. “I talked with different groups and asked them, ‘Do people know you’re doing this?’ We need to make sure the public understands it’s coming from APA and our field.”
In a new age of health care, psychologists cannot afford not to be part of the discussion, he says, whether it’s about research funding or prevention. “Right now, our health care system is only set up to deal with people after a diagnosis. There are tremendous opportunities for psychologists in population health to prevent health problems.”
As APA celebrates its 125th anniversary, Evans also wants to make sure the association stays on top of the latest trends in psychology, including emerging technologies, such as mental health apps, artificial intelligence and big data. “We cannot miss an opportunity to be a part of this research. We have to be on the leading edge.”