Reflections on #SBM2019

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We’re back from a busy and invigorating week at the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) 2019 annual meeting in Washington, D.C.! Read on for our lab members’ reflections on their experience.

Megan M. Brown, B.S., CHASE Lab Research Coordinator (First-Time Attendee)
Brown SBM2019Attending the 2019 SBM conference was an inspiring and motivating experience. Before SBM I had never attended a large, four-day long professional conference. The thought of this was intimidating, and despite our preparations on campus, I was unsure of what to expect. However, as soon as I walked into the first poster session I felt welcomed and surrounded by individuals who appreciate research as much as I do. I enjoyed knowing there was a mix of peers attending SBM, from students to early-, mid-, and senior career health professionals. I knew I had so much to learn from peers at all different levels. As the days went on, I experienced many firsts: attending symposia, keynotes, breakfast roundtables, and paper sessions, and presenting two posters.

After observing how experts in the field communicated their research and findings, it made me think of ways to improve how I convey my research, and the types of questions I want to develop. Being a research coordinator with clinical psychology Ph.D. aspirations, I had a broad idea of the research I wanted to pursue in a clinical psychology program. But after being exposed to the vast amounts of research at SBM, I found myself beginning to mold my general interests into specific questions. With that being said, there is something truly motivating about watching other people get passionate about their research, and this experience made me eager to go back home and further mine. An observation I noticed during the conference was the excitement I felt getting to pick talks that sparked my interest, and getting to sit in rooms filled with people who have similar passions as I do (e.g., mental and physical health).

SBM not only exposed me to novel and innovative research, but it also allowed me the opportunity to network and introduce myself to experts in the field of behavioral medicine. From the personal one-on-one conversations I had at poster sessions, to the information I learned during research talks, SBM 2019 was an overwhelmingly positive experience, and I look forward to attending next year’s conference.

Kristen Pasko, B.S., First-Year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student (Second-Time Attendee)
The 40th Annual Society of Behavioral Medicine Conference was a powerful illustration of the need to increase the scope of influence in addressing healthcare barriers. The evolution of our communication and behavior through social media is considerable. In the opening keynote, Duke University Researcher Susannah Fox spoke about Health and Technology Megatrends: How You Can Anticipate the Future. Through various health psychology research findings, she demonstrated the power of a bottom-up approach with social resources in a healthcare system that prioritizes top-down policy and treatment. This allows patients and their families/friends to be the experts of their own bodies and treatment. It promoted more attention on training and equipping our caregivers who are often the first responders in our healthcare. In addition, this does not have to stop at in-person social interaction. Individuals are increasingly turning to social media to get the latest health information and advice. We need to better capitalize on these built-in resources, especially when research dissemination to the public can be as simple as a tweet.

Pasko SBM2019However, it is important to note that we are not all as lucky to have these caregivers, or an environment conducive to accurate health information and resources. This was demonstrated in a keynote, Heroes Tackling the Social Determinants of Health, presented by Mindi Knebel (Kaizen Health) and Khali Sweeney (Detroit Boxing Gym Youth Program). Transportation access alone is associated with medical appointment adherence and likelihood of more effective treatment. Further, growing up in a “bad neighborhood” without sufficient social support and resources can put a child at extreme economic, educational and medical disadvantage. For many who enter the behavioral medicine field without this background, it could be easy to forget or take for granted how these environments and resources affect our health. We were reminded through this presentation that as healthcare professionals, we need to be culturally and socioeconomically sensitive to health disparities. Anything can be a barrier within healthcare, especially social influence and resources.

By attending SBM, I increased my general knowledge about healthcare and further specified my own research questions was related to social influences. We rarely experience health in a vacuum. Therefore, as we move forward in our navigation and advancement in behavioral medicine, we must not forget social influence.

Dr. Dani Arigo, Lab Director (Multi-Time Attendee)
Arigo SBM2019.2I’ve attended SBM annual meetings nearly every year for more than 10 years – ever since my Ph.D. mentor introduced me to the Society in 2007. Even after all this time, I still experienced some firsts at #SBM2019. In my time with SBM, this organization has increased its focus on science communication (#scicomm; i.e., getting our science and message to the public). I have embraced this notion both within and outside of SBM, running Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for my professional work (@DrDaniArigo, @RowanCHASELab) and for SBM entities such as the Behavioral Informatics and Technology Special Interest Group (@SBMDigitalHlth, BIT SIG LinkedIn Group). This year, I served as a speaker for two science communication sessions* and contributed to dissemination of SBM content via Twitter throughout the week.

“First” #1 – Leadership Activities
As I’ve become more involved in SBM, I’ve started to take on leadership responsibilities. Just before last year’s annual meeting, I was elected co-chair of the SBM Behavioral Informatics and Technology SIG; I assumed that role after the meeting and began a very full year of administration for the SIG. This was my first year planning for the annual meeting as a SIG leader, which came with a number of organizational tasks – helping to decide which sessions to sponsor, which abstracts to select for awards, coordinating our Tech Madness data blitz preview, and facilitating our business meeting. I also helped to initiate our new leaders. I’ve now started my one-year term as SIG chair, and I serve in collaboration with our new co-chair and student co-chair. It will be a busy and exciting year for the SIG.

“First” #2 – K23 Check-In and Disclosures
Arigo SBM2019.1Technically this wasn’t my *first* check-in, as my NHLBI K23 award started on 3/1/2018. But it was the first year that I scheduled specific times to meet with mentors who are not at my institution, to give them updates on my progress and plan for Year 2. But it was the first time that I got to disclose my K23 for its support of my time, and for its funding to continue the lines of research I presented in symposia and poster sessions (see below). It’s an honor to be able to describe our CHASE work as NIH-funded.

Scholarly Presentations
Arigo SBM2019.3In addition to co-leading two BIT SIG meetings, I also gave research talks in two symposia and led a poster presentation (expertly taken over by Kristen when I had to leave for a meet-and-greet session). All three of these submissions were based on preliminary data for our now-funded NHLBI women’s health study. Findings demonstrated that: 1) accelerometer cut points for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity need to be carefully considered and selected when applied to activity data from midlife women with elevated cardiovascular risk (see open access poster here), 2) among these women, increases in certain social experiences (such as the quality of social interactions and social comparisons) are associated with changes in food intake recording and objectively assessed physical activity. To Kristen’s point above, we still have much to learn about how the social environment influences health behavior, and how we can harness these influences in tailored interventions.

Stay tuned for more updates on our work toward these goals!

*I was supposed to give only one of these talks; a speaker for a session I chaired didn’t make it to the conference, and I subbed for her as best I could.