Antonio Puente’s family originally migrated from Cuba. He lacked guidance and a mentor, but fortunately a neighbor told him about a community college starting up in Jacksonville. He was the first in his family to attend an American college. It was during his community college years that Dr. Puente, the 2017 President of the American Psychological Association, first heard about psychology. The man who suggested the community college was a policeman and he told Puente that he was going to take a psychology course taught by a teacher he thought was particularly interesting. To this day, Puente has stayed in contact with that professor, Dan Hadwith. Hadwith guided Puente through the community college. Puente said, “He was the one who asked me what I wanted to do. At that point I had no earthly idea! I told him I did know I wanted to study this thing called ‘mind-brain’ and he said, that is called ‘Psychology.’ I became part of that community college. The college was started in an abandoned grammar school in a rough section of town. They needed help putting the library together and I was willing to do it, particularly if they paid me. That was how I got started. I started at the bottom, literally!” Puente earned a degree at that community college, then transferred to the University of Florida. He eventually received his PhD from the University of Georgia.
Career Background – Puente is the founder and co-director of the Cape Fear Clinic, a bilingual mental health clinic for the poor and uninsured and holds appointments as a visiting professor at the Universidad de Granada, Spain, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
During his presidency one of Puente’s priorities was to continue the focus on integrating psychology into comprehensive healthcare. He said, “Psychology is the only viable discipline in position to provide an integrative care model wherein all health care disciplines collaborate to produce better outcomes at lower costs. The initial step is to erase the divide between physical and mental health, all the while buttressing our efforts in mental health. Psychology will be the catalyst for integrative healthcare.”
Puente is a past-president of the North Carolina Psychological Association, North Carolina Psychological Foundation, National Academy of Neuropsychology, Society for Clinical Neuropsychology and Hispanic Neuropsychological Society. A member of APA since 1979, Puente has served two terms as the APA council representative for the Society for Clinical Neuropsychology. He has chaired the Psychology Academy of the National Academies of Practice and several APA boards and committees ranging from the Board of Convention Affairs to the Committee on Psychological Tests and Assessment. He served on the Joint Committee for the Revision of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Puente was APA’s representative to the American Medical Association’s Current Procedural Terminology panel from 1993 to 2008 and has served on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid’s Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee.
Puente was born in Cuba and received his PhD from the University of Georgia.