On February 5, 2021, Professor and Adult Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Program Director Douglas Whiteside, PhD, ABPP/CN, officially stepped into the presidency of the Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology (APPCN). That transition followed two years as president-elect and will be followed by two years as past president.

It’s a big commitment that Dr. Whiteside believes is important – both for himself and for the U. “It’s good for the University to have faculty in national leadership roles,” he said. “It speaks volumes about its commitment to training and research.”

APPCN is a fairly new organization. According to the organization’s website, the programs belonging to the Midwest Neuropsychology Consortium joined with neuropsychology postdoctoral programs from other parts of the United States to form APPCN in 1992.

Douglas Whiteside, PhD, ABPP/CN

The organization’s membership now includes more than 100 clinical neuropsychology postdoctoral residency training directors throughout North America. While it provides rigorous guidelines and support for post-doctoral fellow training, Dr. Whiteside (pictured at left) believes it has other exciting possibilities. “I feel strongly that we can do a lot to support post-doctoral training,” he said. “My goals are to continue diversifying what APCCN offers to member programs and to postdoctoral fellows.”

Well-organized match
Initially, APPCN’s focus was on ensuring that post-doctoral fellows in clinical neuropsychology could participate in a well-organized, rule-based match program, modeled on The National Residency Match Program. “As we grew, it was clear that we should do more than just run the match,” said Dr. Whiteside. “For example, we started to offer a video didactic library for member programs and we’re forming an Ethics Committee that offers advice for members who run into situations related to patient complications.”

Due to restrictions on training related to the COVID-19 pandemic, APPCN began to offer multi-site programs that provide high-quality didactic training for post docs. “We are opening that training to psychology interns who might be interested in neuropsychology and to post docs who are in nonmember programs,” said Dr. Whiteside. “We’re also working on developing competencies to guide training for post-doctoral fellows.”

Revamping training guidelines
Another important two-year initiative is to revamp the national training guidelines for clinical neuropsychology, which were first introduced in 1993. “One part of that work will be to place more emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion,” said Dr. Whiteside. Work during 2021 will be devoted to planning; the final year’s goal will be to formally present the results during the 2022 APPCN Conference.

Like many other organizations, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were a challenge for APPCN. When it became clear that in-person interviews during the match process weren’t possible this year, the organization created guidelines for video interviews.

Improving diversity
As mentioned before, another significant challenge revolves around diversity, according to Dr. Whiteside. “Neuropsychology isn’t a diverse specialty from a demographic perspective,” he said. “We’re mostly Caucasian and predominantly women.” One of APPCN’s goals is to get clinical neuropsychology trainees from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds into the training pipeline early and to help member programs create environments that are welcoming to members of diverse communities.

Dr. Whiteside is proud of APPCN’s accomplishments. “We’ve developed an application process that treats match applicants fairly and reduces their stress,” he said. “It’s a structured system with mechanisms that discourage cheating and helps everyone know what to expect. I’m also impressed every day by the drive and contributions of our member programs. We are the final step in helping post docs pull together everything they have learned to be successful early-career neuropsychologists. That is inspiring.”

Learn more about APPCN.