Steve Du Bois, assistant professor of psychology, travelled to Chile in November to attend the International Congress of Behavioral Medicine. Read about his experience.
I had a rich and wonderful experience at the International Congress of Behavioral Medicine in Santiago, Chile! This conference is the international version of the annual Society of Behavioral Medicine conference held in the U.S. Given that my research focus is health, health behaviors, and partnership and health, this behavioral medicine conference was a great fit. Plus, it's always so inspiring to be around so many people doing health research. It reminds me how many of us there are out there who care about helping others, and all the good work people are doing and disseminating.
I was able to give an oral presentation of my own work—done with fellow Illinois Tech psychology faculty Nicole Legate, and University of Illinois at Chicago colleague Ashley Kendall, Ph.D.—titled, "Examining partnership-health associations in U.S. sexual minorities, using population-level data." The talk went well, and was well-attended—particularly for being on a Saturday afternoon, and during a local gay march that happened to be occurring in Santiago that day!
During my session, another talk occurred that relates to my work, and also to the Illinois Tech psychology program more broadly. It was titled, "Social Construction of Disability from the Perspective of Primary Health Care Officials in Chile." During this talk, I thought of our counseling and rehabilitation science program, and of the broader issue of how disability is constructed across different systems—whether those be global, cultural, or familial.
I saw some wonderful poster presentations, symposia, and oral presentations from others. In a symposia on using apps to reduce alcohol intake, I learned that the answer to the question "do these apps work to reduce alcohol use?" is "well, it depends how we measure alcohol use. If you look at number of days used weekly, the apps worked; if you look at number of drinks consumed weekly, the apps don't work." This was a great reminder about specificity in measurement. I also attended a keynote titled, "Making Behavior Change Research Useful," which elegantly summarized current health behavior change research, and made digestible recommendations about improving my own behavior change research. Once again, a take-home message was specificity regarding defining what we're measuring, and also what mechanisms underlie any behavior change we find in our interventions. In other words, it's not good enough to help people change their health behavior; instead, we must additionally deduce and disseminate how we helped people change their behavior. I even got to ask a question of the keynote speaker regarding how to write-up detailed, process-level results while adhering to journal mandates to be succinct. For me, it seemed more anxiety-provoking to ask that question, in front of the keynote and all audience members, than to give my presentation!
A certain highlight of my conference experience was running into one of my academic heroes. This is someone whose work highly influences mine, and whose work I ask my graduate students to review as "required reading" for my lab. I was able to learn more about his current projects, tell him more about mine, and even pitch an idea for future collaborations! Stay tuned to see if that collaboration happens. Regardless, it was great to meet this hero of mine, and he even attended my talk the next day. It was also great to see other colleagues who I'd already met and collaborated with in my career.
I'm grateful for my conference experience, and also to be able to travel to Santiago, Chile. I had never visited this beautiful city, which is surrounded by majestic mountains that provide beautiful vistas at all times. And, it's spring/summer there, so the temperatures are warm, and the days are long–a nice respite from the Midwest in November. ¡Además, practiqué mucho mi español!
-Steve Du Bois