Over the last three decades, I have enjoyed working intensively with students to help them achieve their academic goals here at Hostos. Upon my appointment, I knew that research would be expected of me, but I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to develop a realistic research agenda. Early in my career, I found time for research primarily during the summer break, when I was free from my committee work and teaching responsibilities. After attending an international conference during one of my first summers, I realized that both my bilingual background and New York City base were assets to scientific organizations overseas. My research agenda of promoting scientific exchanges via international meetings and conferences was shaped and influenced by those early contacts with professionals abroad. Together with my colleagues from Latin American and Spain, we organized the first International Conference on Health & Behavior which took place at Hostos in the early 90s. The Conference gave researchers from Ibero-American countries a platform to present their research in their native language to students and professionals who share a similar culture and background. Simultaneous translation was offered for monolingual English participants. After the Hostos event, we successfully organized four annual and biannual follow-up conferences in Spain and Latin America. Based on those positive experiences, I sought to expand the scope of Health & Behavior conferences to developing countries in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. I subsequently worked with other professional organizations to establish the World Congress Committee based in Denmark. I obtained a sabbatical to undertake a major leadership role in the organization the first World Congress of Health & Behavior in a developing country sponsored by Ibero-American organizations. Forty one countries participated from six continents and it was deemed a success by the stakeholder associations. After the economic crisis hit Spain and Latin America, universities and professional organizations could no longer support such costly events, and as a result, conferences were signifi cantly scaled down. Despite these setbacks, I remained interested and continued pursuing research exchanges on a smaller scale. At the beginning of 2016, I was approached by a professional organization in Spain to work in developing and expanding the scientific program of their International Congress to be held in Santiago de Compostela, Spain in November, 2017. After discussions in Spain, I agreed to Chair the International Scientific Committee, and to help them increase the number of submissions and presentations in the areas of Health & Behavior from Ibero-American presenters. Likewise, they asked me to assist in the production of an enhanced proceedings book with mini-chapters to replace the customary abstracts.
During my sabbatical, I spent a great deal of time obtaining the support of 74 national and international organizations, which all agreed to be listed as sponsoring institutions and encouraged their members to participate in the International Congress. To further promote the event and highlight the quality of the speakers, I interviewed a renowned German researcher, whom we later recruited as a keynote speaker. The interview was published in Spanish in the widely disseminated journal: COP online. The interview generated tremendous interest, and we received more submissions after it was published. The President of the American Psychological Association and the Coordinator of the World Health Organization in charge of developing a new system of classification of mental disorders (known as ICD-11) both presented. There were a total of 1205 presentations including keynotes, symposia, workshops, posters and conversation hours. During the actual Congress, I was heavily involved in presenting speakers, moderating talks, and overseeing the execution of the scientific program. There were 33 countries represented and more than 80% of the participants came from Ibero-American countries.
As far as the enhanced proceedings book, the Scientific Committee team was instrumental in reviewing, selecting, and preparing 97 mini-chapters ready for publication. A colleague from Spain and I were the lead editors to ensure that mini-chapter submissions met the standards of peer review publications. Our goal of author diversity was met and surpassed, as 90% of the published authors came from Ibero-American countries. I was grateful for the opportunity to complete my sabbatical experience during the academic year 2017-2018. My long term scholarly goals were realized and the objectives of the international organizations involved were met.
—————- About the Author —————-
Dr. Juan Preciado is a full professor of Health Education in the Education Department. He has served as Coordinator, Chair and participated in committees and task forces within and outside the College for the last 31 years. His primary interests include cultural issues, international health, as well as the dissemination of scientific information via international conferences. He was awarded visiting professorships at various universities in Spain during summer intersessions. Dr. Preciado serves on the editorial board of several international peer-review journals, and participates in scientific committees of international conferences.