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Puente Elected President of American Psychological Association

Monday, August 08, 2016


Written by Katie Merritt ’16; Photo by Sally Cameron (North Carolina Psychological Association)

Dr. Antonio Puente, professor of psychology, lives a dual life. On UNCW’s campus, he is a smiling, respected professor of classes like Brain & Behavior and Clinical Neuropsychology.  He holds office hours. He mentors student research. He grades papers and tests. However, unlike most professors, Dr. Puente travels regularly to Washington D.C. and other cities across the world to fulfill duties as 2016 president-elect of the American Psychological Association. In January 2017, Puente will move into position as president of the esteemed organization. He is one of only three APA presidents from North Carolina in APA’s 125-year existence.  

The American Psychological Association is the largest organization representing psychologists in the United States and boasting more than 122,500 members. The organization plays a crucial role in promoting research and advancement of psychology while also representing relevant psychological matters in politics and culture. Puente’s new responsibilities involve defending members and the future of APA, while also teaching three classes a semester at UNCW.

“I can be teaching class on a Monday and then travel to Washington D.C. on a Tuesday to defend a bill in a congressman’s office and then come back to teach class on a Wednesday.  It’s a busy lifestyle, but it’s rewarding,” Puente says.

In addition to teaching, Puente has served on approximately 12 committees in the APA since 1976, representing the organization on other committees of health care professionals like the American Medical Association. His resume also includes presidential positions in major psychological organizations like the North Carolina Psychological Association and the National Academy of Neuropsychology. To invest in the local Wilmington community, Dr. Puente started Cape Fear Clinic’s mental health facility, which provides counseling resources to those in poverty. Through Puente’s leadership, the clinic now boasts service to more than 1,500 clients in the greater Wilmington community. These experiences culminated to qualify Dr. Puente for his new honor. 

Puente campaigned against five other elites in the field. His campaign team consisted primarily of UNCW students of all backgrounds and skillsets.

“All chose to participate at different levels. For example, we had someone from computer science help develop IT resources, including webpages and an email system. Another student was in charge of purchasing pens, buttons and more. Another designed promotional materials. All helped develop the platform and strategy,” Puente describes excitedly. This unique opportunity allowed students to gain applied learning experience in a political election-like atmosphere, advocating and supporting Dr. Puente in his quest for presidency.  

During his time as president, Puente hopes to establish the APA as a preeminent and respected force in the medical community. He wishes to expand broad public knowledge of psychological advances and findings. Finally, he seeks to restructure APA to best prepare the organization for future growth and expansion. Under these platforms, Puente hopes to gain respect for psychology in the general public, school systems, the medical field and politics.