Post by Kristen Pasko, B.S. (research coordinator) and Sabrina DiBisceglie (senior undergraduate student). This was their first opportunity to attend a professional conference.
The 2018 Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) conference was a learning opportunity distinct from any of my prior professional development experiences. Specifically, I was able to disseminate my original findings, discover cutting-edge research in health psychology, connect with pioneers in the field of similar interest, and experience growth as a budding clinical psychologist.
As someone who is about to enter graduate school, SBM provided me with an opportunity to grow as an independent researcher. This experience was a chance to build my network of potential collaborators, train my eye to qualities of impactful posters and presentations, and gain a deeper understanding of topics of particular interest. One observation was how specific the research projects were, which got me thinking about how generalizable these findings are, beyond the particular context of each study. From these lines of consideration, I was able to make connections across findings and develop new research questions.
I also realized that I am now a member of this professional organization, in the same learning environment among fellow beginners, intermediate and advanced individuals alike. The continued educational aspect of this field excited me. Likewise, experiencing many collaborative efforts in action was helpful, as members of SBM include healthcare professionals from a variety of disciplines besides psychology. These differences between fields provoked interactive conversation within almost every presentation to work across disciplines and perspectives for the common goal of creating research for the best healthcare outcomes.
Social Divides and Health Divides – Keynote: Sandro Galea
In a seamless narrative that led with data, this keynote addressed the connection between social and health disparities across the United States. The speaker demonstrated the extent to which life expectancy can range at the levels of country, state, and even county. For example, an individual could receive the same treatment in two different countries for a chronic illness and still have a large gap in life expectancy depending on where they reside. Furthermore, when we compare healthcare costs by country, the United States prioritizes treatment over prevention, as opposed to most other countries. Overall, the speaker acknowledged that health behaviors don’t exist in a vacuum and proposed getting social and economic forces into the healthcare conversation.
Acceptance-Based Approaches to Behavior Changes; Application to Weight Control and Physical Activity Interventions – Symposium: Jocelyn Remmert, Leah Schumacher, Courtney Stevens, Meghan Butryn
This symposium centered around the affective barriers before, during, and after engaging in physical activity. It was suggested that acceptance-based therapy (ACT) could mitigate barriers that stem from the associated uncomfortable feelings (fatigue, sweat) as many aspects of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity are not subject to change. Taken together, these findings are intuitive as ACT and psychological flexibility go hand-in-hand and are associated with the greatest long-term outcomes for physical activity. Individuals could benefit from being flexible with guidelines for physical activity for a more tailored approach to their ability and goals.
SBM was a stimulating experience that bolstered my interest in pursuing a career in the behavioral medicine field. Sandro Galea’s opening keynote provided an eye opening presentation on social divides and health divides. His enthusiasm and fascinating findings set the tone for the following days of the conference. As this was my first professional conference, this was a great learning experiences as to how conferences work as well as an experience to be exposed to thought provoking research.
Not only did I gain knowledge on interesting topics and research, I also gained professional knowledge in terms of sharing and presenting research. Attending poster sessions as well as paper sessions allowed me to observe different ways people shared knowledge. It was exciting as a beginner to be introduced to new information alongside experts in this field. My favorite portion of the conference was the poster sessions. These sessions allowed close and personalized interaction with investigators. I was amazed by the breadth of topics that were covered throughout these sessions.
This experience has allowed me to not only gain knowledge on topics new to me, but it has also allowed me to reflect on my individual research and to reevaluate as well as add components to support and further my research. I look forward to continuing my membership with SBM and to continue to use this society to further my research interests.