Past President’s Farewell
After 8 years as President of the EAPM I would like to take a look back at the development of our association.
It all began with a small meeting at the European Conference of Psychosomatic Medicine in June 2010 in Innsbruck, Austria. For years there had been occasional discussions to merge the two groups, the European Association of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatics (EACLPP) and the loosely organized European Network of Psychosomatic Medicine in one society. Many colleagues were members of both groups at the time. When the European Network considered giving itself more formal structures as an association, the then President of the EACLPP Albert Leentjens and I approached the spokesman for the European Network, Gerhard Schüssler, to wonder whether it would be possible to establish a joint organization. Gerhard and other members of the network agreed to join forces. After a year of intensive discussion and persuasion, the overwhelming majority of the members of both groups agreed to an association under the new name of the European Association of Psychosomatic Medicine. It took another year to draw up and agree on by-laws for the new organization and rules on how a first provisional board should be established from representatives of both groups. This then happened at the next European Conference on Psychosomatic Research in June 2012 in Aarhus, Denmark.
In a founding meeting 40 colleagues participated, the by-laws of the EAPM were adopted and the first provisional board was elected. It consisted of Margarita Beresnevaitė from Kaunas, Lituania, Antonio Bulbena from Barcelona, Silvia Ferrari from Modena, Peter Hindley from London, Gerhard Schüssler from Innsbruck (vice president), Marta Novak from Budapest/Toronto (secretary), Dan Dumitrascu from Sibiu, Romania, Monika Keller from Heidelberg (treasurer), Hans-Christian
Deter from Berlin and myself as president. Albert Leentjens (European Editor of the Journal of Psychosomatic Research), Per Fink from Aarhus and Alexandre Berney from Lausanne were co-opted as council members. In addition, an Auditing Committee was elected to act as a control body for the board. It consisted of Kristina Orth-Gomer (Stockholm) and Carsten Leue (Maastricht). The board decided to send a letter to each national association or group active in the field of consultation-liaison psychiatry or Psychosomatic Medicine to become members of the EAPM and to send a representative to build an advisory board of the association. At the end of the year EAPM had 96 members from 16 European countries.
The EAPM’s first annual meeting was held in Cambridge, U.K., the following year. The first regular general assembly of the EAPM elected an Executive Council (replacing the provisional board). The Advisory Board was installed representing 16 European countries. National associations were invited to become “legal members” of the EAPM besides the “physical” individual members. The Swiss Academy for Psychosomatic and Psychosocial Medicine (SAPPM) was the first national association becoming an EAPM “legal” member. Ten working groups and special interest groups were set up to promote scientific exchange.
In the following 7 years the number of individual members doubled (see Figure). The number of legal members (national associations) rose to 16 (see Table). New special interest groups and scientific working groups were founded and are an expression of the intensified cross-border scientific activities. To facilitate the scientific exchange and communication between the members, a new website, a quarterly newsletter and a listserv were installed. An EAPM Fellowship Program was recently set up to promote continuing education in the field of psychosomatic medicine and C-L psychiatry and to make EAPM more attractive, especially for young researchers and clinicians.
The highlight of the EAPM’s activities, however, was the annual scientific congress. The number of participants increased from year to year (from 350 in 2013 to more than 500 over past three years) and more and more colleagues from countries outside Europe took part. Every other year, pre-conferences were organized with the American and Canadian Academies of Psychosomatic Medicine.
Particularly gratifying was the establishment of trans-European scientific initiatives, in which EAPM was significantly involved, such as the EuroNet SOMA group for the research of somatic symptom disorders, the European Training Network „Encompassing Training in Functional Disorders across Europe (ETUDE)“ funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Programme, and the “Cope With Corona” research network.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the EAPM’s annual meeting in Vienna from taking place this year, but the scientific collaborations continue unabated. It is already clear that the pandemic will lead to an increase in psychological stress and disorders. The pandemic knows no borders. This illustrates the need to intensify international scientific and clinical cooperation in the field of psychosomatic medicine and C-L psychiatry. Under the new President Jordi Blanch, EAPM will contribute important initiatives to this.