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BOARD MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Paul Spicer

"I know I have gained far more from my service to ZERO TO THREE than I have been able to give. Serving on the board has offered me incredible opportunities to connect to people who are literally defining this field..."

Editor’s Note: The ZERO TO THREE Board of Directors installed a new president during the Annual Conference this past October: Dr. Paul Spicer. We knew you would be as curious as we are to learn more about Paul and his views and vision for ZERO TO THREE.

What has it meant to you to a be a member of ZERO TO THREE’s Board of Directors, especially now as Board President? I am humbled and honored to be able to serve on the board, and still cannot quite believe that I am now president. I am a cultural anthropologist by training, with a wide range of research interests in medical anthropology in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. While many of these interests connect to our work (e.g., substance abuse, mental health, early childhood intervention, and clinical and translational research) I don’t think cultural anthropology is at the top of anyone’s list as a core field in infant mental health! I owe Bob Emde tremendous thanks for advocating for my nomination to the board as I was moving to Oklahoma in 2008. He is the person who first connected me with infancy work when I joined the faculty in Psychiatry at Colorado in 1995, and he remains a cherished mentor. It was such a pleasure to be able to recognize him with our lifetime achievement award when we met in Denver for our annual conference.

I know I have gained far more from my service to ZERO TO THREE than I have been able to give. Serving on the board has offered me incredible opportunities to connect to people who are literally defining this field, as well as the exciting organizational and communications expertise that we have added in recent years. I count my service on the Board as one of the most important things I have ever done, either professionally or personally.

What is happening at ZERO TO THREE right now that you are most excited about? There is so much to be excited about at ZERO TO THREE. In our last strategic plan, we renewed our commitment to infant mental health practice, and the revision of the diagnostic classification (DC:0–5) has been a signature accomplishment. While there is still much we need to do to better meet the needs of infant mental health clinicians, I am optimistic about the future here, including our new connections and collaborations with the World Association for Infant Mental Health. Special thanks to Cindy Oser, Kathleen Mulrooney, and Charley Zeanah on this front.

We also have new opportunities to extend this work outside the mental health clinic. Perhaps none of these are more important than the work we are doing to take HealthySteps to scale. This is a daunting challenge, but the talent we now have on staff, under the leadership of Rahil Briggs, coupled with the generous support of Blue Meridian Partners, has us well positioned to make infant mental health and development an integral and consistent part of pediatric primary care in our country.

All of this is quite frankly overwhelming when I think about it, and I did not even mention our growing leadership role in technical assistance and advocacy. With the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning we took what had been an effort specifically focused on Early Head Start and have grown it to now include Child Care and Head Start as well. Jennifer Boss and her team need to be celebrated for this. And the work that Myra Jones-Taylor and her team have done for policy, in a very challenging environment, is inspiring. I was so proud of how quickly we were able to respond to the crisis at the border. They continue to engage in very effective advocacy on this and a host of other important issues.

I honestly cannot keep track of all that we are doing. The growth we have seen in just the time I have been on the board is stunning, and I am so grateful to Matthew Melmed and the staff for all they do, not only to keep it all afloat, but to thrive in so many areas.

As you look toward the future, what do you see on the horizon for families with young children and/or for the professionals who work with and support them? There remains significant need for more specialty mental health services for infants, toddlers, and their families, and there is a continued need to grow leaders in the field. At the same time, as the work of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health makes clear, work in infant mental health can and should include virtually everyone who works with infants, toddlers, and families. Literally everyone can benefit from being informed by infant mental health. I think ZERO TO THREE is probably uniquely positioned to meet the needs of this broader workforce while continuing to advance specialty infant mental health practice. There are very interesting dialogues on the horizon as we attempt to grow this work across the continuum of services in infancy and as we expand our own service models to bring infant mental health to new settings.

As you engage in ZERO TO THREE’s strategic planning for the organization, what is one new opportunity, outcome, or strategy that you are eager to incorporate? The investments we are making in membership, products, and services have been important. Everything we do now clearly has our brand, and we have exciting resources to offer. I think we can all be proud of all the hard work that went into launching this business model, under the leadership of Elise Miller and her team, and the support and resources we provide to the broad field are truly essential. That said, I think we all know that it can be a challenge to explain what we do succinctly. This is tough enough for infant mental health itself, all but impossible given our diverse portfolio, which includes not only all the services to professionals I have mentioned here, but also direct outreach to the public and advocacy at all levels of government. I am thrilled to have the communications team we now do, under the leadership of Ernestine Benedict, and I don’t know anyone who does not come away inspired by what they can achieve. What an exciting time to be involved in this fabulous organization.

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