April 25, 2014 - Karen L. Weihs, MD, Professor of Psychiatry in the University of Arizona College of Medicine, was elected President of the American Psychosomatic Society on March 14, 2014 at the organization's annual meeting in San Francisco, California.
The mission of the American Psychosomatic Society (APS) is to promote and advance the scientific understanding and multidisciplinary integration of biological, psychological, behavioral and social factors in human health and disease, and to foster the dissemination and application of this understanding in education and health care.
APS was founded in 1942 with the goal of discovering better ways to treat patients with physical symptoms that clinically appeared to be influenced by emotional and social processes. Since that time, it has evolved as the home of outstanding biopsychosocial research. In her candidacy position statement, Dr. Weihs articulated the vision of APS. Going forward, APS will continue this great tradition of discovery and also translate this knowledge back to helping people live healthier and happier lives. This will include greater engagement with medical, psychosocial, educational, spiritual, and public health professionals and their organizations.
Transdisciplinary engagement with health services researchers, with whom physicians can determine how psychosomatic medicine approaches to caring for patients and promoting wellness, may yield cost-effective outcomes and improved quality of life. Through this work, awareness of the truly unitary reality of body, mind, person, family and community can be brought to bear on rapidly evolving approaches to healthcare that must engage people with cutting edge scientific knowledge to optimize their health and their lives.
Dr. Weihs is a tenured Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona with an adjunct appointment in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She is the Medical Director for Psychosocial Oncology and Supportive Care for Healing at the University of Arizona Comprehensive Cancer Center.
She received her medical degree from the University of Iowa. She completed her residency in Family Medicine at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, NJ, while also completing training at the Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy in NYC. She then held positions as Instructor and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Brown University, where she was Outpatient Medical Director, prior to moving to Madison, WI for residency training in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry. Her postdoctoral scientific training was completed at The George Washington University (GWU), supported by a K20 award from NIMH, to conduct the Family Coping and Breast Cancer Progression Project. She was an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at GWU, and Director of Clinical Psychiatric Research prior to moving to the University of Arizona in 2005. She is board certified in three specialties: General Psychiatry, Family Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Care.
The central theme of Dr. Weihs’ career is the influence of interpersonal processes on mental and physical health. Her scientific work, which has been funded by federal grants from NIH and the Department of Defense, focuses on the emotional and biological mechanisms through which social and family processes influence health outcomes after stressful life events such as cancer diagnosis and job loss. She founded the transdisciplinary research group called ”MESH” – Mechanisms of Emotion, Social Relationships and Health - at the University of Arizona with her colleague, Richard Lane, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience.
Clinical work as a family physician, a general and child psychiatrist, a family therapist and a practitioner of psychosocial oncology have been a constant inspiration for her growth as a scientist, as a person and as a healer. The interpersonal experience of the physician-patient relationship, and family influences on patient medical outcomes, are her particular areas of expertise as a clinician and as an educator of health care professionals.
Dr. Weihs has long been involved in APS. She also led the first APS free-standing topic-focused conference: Toward Precision Cancer Care: Biobehavioral Contributions to the Exposome in Chicago in Fall 2012. Dr. Weihs was a founding leader of The Alliance for Quality Psychosocial Cancer Care--representing more than 30 leading organizations dedicated to the care of cancer patients and their families. She was the recipient of the Outstanding Clinical Care Award from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society in 2008.
On behalf of the Department of Psychiatry, congratulations to Dr. Weihs!