Special Issue 2016
Table of Content
SOT President’s Message: Society Enhances Science, Education, Career, Communications Activities
Last April, then-SOT President Norbert Kaminski unveiled the final version of the 2015–2018 SOT Strategic Plan which encapsulates where the Society will focus key efforts in the coming years. As we approach this one-year anniversary, it feels like an appropriate time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far and the activities that are in motion.
It is important to remember the purpose of our Strategic Plan, which is not meant to dictate all activities in which the Society engages. There are core programs and initiatives of the Society—such as the Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, continuing education, and the journal Toxicological Sciences—that always will be a priority for the organization. The Strategic Plan’s job is to identify non-core areas that would benefit from additional focus. The Strategic Plan is designed to be “evergreen,” meaning it is present, continually relevant, and working year-round to keep our priorities in view. So while Council spent considerable time this year on the strategic priority of “developing and supporting toxicologists to capitalize on future opportunities” (aka the “pipeline”), there also has been substantial effort made to address the other two strategic priorities of “strengthening the impact and relevance of toxicology” (“the science”) and “expanding outreach and impact globally” (“communications”).
This Special Issue of the Communiqué highlights the progress we have made this year in the science, the pipeline, and communications with exclusive articles by SOT Council members:
During last year’s strategic planning, Council members recognized the importance of diversity in SOT. This year, Council identified several important attributes of diversity, including many demographic and cognitive factors that support SOT’s progressive mission.
We discussed research showing that diversity provokes thought, creativity, and innovation within an organization due to the unique perspectives and experiences that people bring. We also learned that although many organizations appear diverse, many struggle to be inclusive, that is, to create an atmosphere where the contributions, knowledge, and experiences of all members of an organization or group are sought out, valued, and respected. One outcome of the Council discussion was an updated diversity and inclusion statement for SOT, which is posted on the website. Council will take primary responsibility for promoting inclusiveness and work towards encouraging best practices for SOT’s committees and component groups. Although efforts to be inclusive may present some challenges along the way, embracing diversity and inclusiveness in all of our activities will make SOT a stronger and even more successful organization.
I also would like to congratulate the 2016 SOT Award recipients and welcome the new SOT Council members and elected Committee members, who are featured within these pages. They will provide great insight and leadership to the Society in the coming year.
In this, my final official President’s Message, I would like to express my gratitude to our membership for giving me the opportunity to serve the Society.
This past year, I have had the pleasure of closely working with an exceptionally collegial and hardworking Council and have had the chance to meet and work with many SOT members whom I had not previously known. The SOT members who generously contribute their time and energy never cease to amaze me. Many thanks to our management team whose members serve us with utmost professionalism and enthusiastic collaboration. The Society’s continued success and impact is due to all of your combined talents, efforts, and commitment.
Thank you for an extremely rewarding year. I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans. “Laissez les bon temps rouler.”
Peter L. Goering
More Plenary Presentations in 2016: Fostering Integration and Appreciation of Toxicology with Other Disciplines
By John B. Morris, PhD, ATS—SOT Vice President and Scientific Program Committee Chairperson,
We have enhanced our plenary sessions for the 2016 Annual Meeting to better align them with the Society’s Strategic Plan for 2015–2018. In addition to scheduling more sessions with more speakers, we have designed the sessions to facilitate two-way discussions with the presenters. Our overall goal is “Strengthening the Impact and Relevance of Toxicology” by bringing cutting-edge science to our Annual Meeting and allowing for discourse with scientists from other disciplines. Through such exchanges, there can be meaningful dialogue about the environmental causes of disease and the unique role that toxicologists can play in evaluating the health effects of substances based on exposure, dose, and mechanisms of action. Such knowledge is of great utility to the biomedical community as evidenced from the distinguished individuals who will be featured at the SOT Annual Meeting, March 13–17, 2016, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
SOT Council and the Scientific Program Committee worked hand-in-hand to develop the new plenary format. There will be plenary sessions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Monday and Tuesday, March 14 and 15, each session will have two speakers and on Wednesday, March 16, the plenary session will be the keynote Medical Research Council (MRC) lecture. The speakers in these sessions will address human health and disease prevention from diverse disciplines and expertises.
The Monday Plenary Session is built around the theme of Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering. The first speaker will be Doris Taylor, director of Regenerative Medicine Research at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, Texas. Dr. Taylor will provide a presentation on “Building a Heart: From Cells to Tissues to Organs.” The second speaker, Joan Nichols, will offer a presentation on lung bioengineering: “From 3D Microchip to Human Organ Culture Models: Trachea, Bronchi/Bronchiole and Lung Biomimetic Models for Disease Modeling, Drug Discovery and Toxicology Evaluation.” Dr. Nichols is the associate director of the University of Texas Medical Branch. Many of the advances to be discussed by these speakers seemed until recently more aligned with science fiction than scientific sessions. Through these speakers, our members will have the opportunity to stay abreast of advances that will have a real impact on diagnostic approaches and therapies, now and in the future.
The Tuesday Plenary Session is on the theme of Inflammation and Neurodegenerative Disease and will feature Stephen Skaper and Alan I. Faden. Dr. Skaper, University of Padua, will present on “Mast Cells and Glia: Two Tracks on the Road to Inflammation,” and Dr. Faden, director, Center for Shock, Trauma and Anesthesiology Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine on “Inflammation and Neurodegernation in CNS Injury: Evolving Concepts and New Therapeutic Targets.” The contents of this session will range from basic science to practical applications. These topics are of scientific interest and also of public interest. As our population ages, concerns about neurodegenerative disease are increasing. Also of public concern is traumatic brain injury, as witnessed by the release of books and films on sports and head trauma this year.
On Wednesday, the plenary session will be presented by the Keynote MRC speaker, Robert J.M. Franklin, who will provide a lecture on “Regenerating CNS Myelin—From Mechanisms to Medicines.” His presentation will bridge the earlier plenary sessions and will serve to highlight unifying themes. Dr. Franklin is the head of translational science at the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and director of the UK MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair at the University of Cambridge. His research focus is on how stem cells in the adult brain respond to injury, how they contribute to regeneration, and how are they affected by aging.
All these plenary sessions are anticipated to be interactive, with either me or SOT 2015–2016 President Peter L. Goering serving as discussant leaders to encourage dialogue. It is clear from our discussions with these speakers that they look forward to interacting with toxicologists from all sectors and several are staying throughout the Annual Meeting. These featured speakers are participating in our Annual Meeting because they appreciate the role of toxic chemicals in initiating a cascade of health effects due to tissues damaged by pollutants. We have much to learn from one another. In addition to delivering their presentations, these distinguished scientists will be meeting with small groups of invited graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who will engage in a lively interaction with these speakers.
We are confident that attendees will be interested in these presentations as windows on new and emerging knowledge in these biomedical disciplines as well as guideposts for areas of future toxicological investigations. SOT is committed to presenting state-of-the-art science to help shape the future of human and environmental health and disease prevention.
SOT Strengthens Its Commitment to Life-Long Learning: Recruitment, Education, and Development
By Aaron Barchowsky, PhD—SOT Councilor
That the Society of Toxicology is dedicated to the education and development of toxicologists is evidenced by many of the priorities and objectives of the SOT 2015–2018 Strategic Plan. Some of these aspirations and goals are aligned with the Annual Meeting activities, such as the Continuing Education Courses and Education Career Development Sessions, the Undergraduate Diversity Program, the SOT Mentoring Breakfast, and the research funding informational opportunities. Many other initiatives throughout the year also mirror and actualize guiding values of SOT as a professional scientific society: life-long learning and intellectual scientific stimulation.
During the past year, the SOT Council has focused on the objective of “Promoting for the Recruitment, Education, and Development of a Diverse and Creative Community of Toxicologists.” Our evaluation has confirmed that many of the programs and initiatives in place are successfully accomplishing this objective and should be strengthened, primarily through the Career Resource and Development (CRAD) and Education Committees, as well as the Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI).
To ensure the future of toxicology, it will continue to be essential to recruit students to the field and to enhance their development through effective training and education programs ranging from the Internship Program Support Awards to the Supplemental Training for Education Program (STEP). Through Internship Program Support Awards, the SOT Education Committee provides funding to institutions offering undergraduate internships to support additional toxicology-focused opportunities. STEP enables graduate students to obtain additional professional/scientific development necessary for them to achieve career goals.
To assist in keeping toxicologists current at every career level, the Society is planning new mentoring initiatives in which the CRAD and Education Committees, CDI, and Postdoctoral Assembly will work collaboratively. In the year ahead, these mentoring activities will be announced that will include an expansion of the resources now available through the online Mentor Match.
To further facilitate the goal of keeping toxicologists abreast of new and emerging opportunities across all sectors and career levels around the globe, excellent outreach efforts such as the ToxScholar Program will be refined and enhanced. Through the ToxScholar Program, SOT funds toxicologists to expand the awareness of toxicology and promote toxicology careers through their interaction with students, specifically those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about the discipline. It is anticipated that the Regional Chapters will be vital to the continued success of this endeavor.
Many of the current online resources, such as CEd-Tox: CE Online, Annual Meeting presentations, and webinars provide a comprehensive digital library that is equally suited for outreach and personal career development. In addition, many of the Society’s educational resources, including CEd-Tox, are available at a discount to members from developing countries. The redesigned SOT website allows for greater ease of access to these materials, which are available for viewing at any time.
Another robust online resource is the Undergraduate Educator section of the SOT website, which includes a wide range of information from navigating diverse career paths to the Eminent Toxicologist Lecture series. I encourage toxicologists to turn to this series for inspiration no matter where you are on your career path.
As is clear from the descriptions of programs and activities, the Society’s focus on recruitment, education, and development bridges all three strategic priorities under the Society’s Central Challenge of “Shaping the Future of Toxicology in a Changing Scientific Landscape” by undertaking to:
SOT also is involved in continuing to build toxicology capacity around the world. In 2015, I was fortunate to serve as a Global Senior Scholar Exchange Program Host to Deepak Dhakal of Nepal. Through this program, he attended the 2015 SOT Annual Meeting and spent time with me at the University of Pittsburgh. As a result of this interaction, he has decided to pursue a doctorate at my institution. This is a thrilling outcome that would not have been possible without the catalyst of the exchange program.
Moreover, the SOT membership and greater scientific community are needed to help us meet the critical need of preparing toxicologists for careers in all sectors. The “Ask” by academics is simple: “Tell us what our students need to know to be competitive candidates for industry, regulatory, and advanced academic research positions, and we will refine our curriculum as needed.” Addressing this challenge is too important to be left to guesswork as we need the best trained scientists to be competitive in the global marketplace. The CRAD Committee is being charged to help us with this effort.
To ensure that we are helping to develop the complete toxicologist (a tip of the hat to Mary Beth Genter for this term), we recognize that it is essential to keep abreast of the state-of-the-science and new and emerging approaches and methodologies. Our 27 Specialty Sections, 6 Special Interest Groups, and 18 Regional Chapters are the brain trust of our Society. It is essential that they play a central role in recruitment and development. The component groups provide the expertise that generates the scientific information to help realize the Society’s vision of a “safer and healthier world,” made possible through the educational and career development initiatives of the Society.
Enhancing Communications Outreach and Impact
By Leigh Ann Burns Naas, PhD, ATS—SOT Secretary; and Ruth Roberts, PhD, ATS—SOT Secretary-Elect
To “expand outreach and impact globally” can appear like a daunting strategic priority upon first glance, but in reality, it boils down to a key concept: to make sure we’re communicating efficiently and effectively to both our members and those outside our membership. If we’re doing this correctly, outreach and impact will follow.
Over the last year, we hope you’ve noticed some of the enhancements and improvements the Society has been making to our communications channels and activities. The changes encompass a variety of our programs and will continue to do so in the future. For now, let’s look at some of the highlights.
While the 2015 Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in San Diego was not the first year the Society developed an accompanying meeting app, it was a watershed year for us in its design, function, and usage. In 2015, downloads of the Mobile Event App surpassed the number of registrants at the meeting itself, and it was named one of the best meeting apps of the year by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA).
We were pleased with the Mobile Event App’s success and usefulness to meeting attendees (and non attendees). As a result, it is back in 2016, including all of the features you loved last year and with improvements to others. For those unfamiliar with the Mobile Event App, it features all of the information contained within the official Annual Meeting and ToxExpo Program—plus more! You can build a personalized schedule for your trip to New Orleans and the meeting, receive real-time announcements related to the meeting, look up speaker information, view full abstracts of presentations and e-posters, message friends and colleagues, consult maps and vendor lists for ToxExpo, and access a New Orleans city guide.
We encourage all meeting attendees to use the Mobile Event App for the most up-to-date information about the meeting.
Working with the Graduate Student Leadership Committee (GSLC), at the Annual Meeting, we are launching a new social media initiative called #YouTox, an evolution of the former YouTox Video Challenge. #YouTox encourages SOT members and others to express what they love about toxicology and being toxicologists by sharing stories, photos, videos, and more on their personal social media accounts.
These posts can be inspired by one of the Society’s prompts, such as “I love toxicology because…,” or they can be moments from the lab, presentations, classrooms, or other scientific-related endeavors. There is no single “right” thing to share. #YouTox is designed to simply raise awareness about toxicology and the role it plays in the world and to put a human face on the science. We want people to start exploring and understanding toxicology and its scientists in a way different from that of scientific abstracts and journal articles.
Start sharing on social media using #YouTox or stop by the SOT Pavilion (Booth 500) during ToxExpo in New Orleans, where SOT staff and GSLC volunteers will help take #YouTox pictures and videos.
SOT launched its redesigned website in the summer of 2015 with a goal to provide better communication and quicker access to resources for our members. With customizable features, the new site is focused on providing you with information that is relevant and useful to your needs and membership, including those you hold to our Regional Chapters, Special Interest Groups, and Specialty Sections. From SOT meeting news to online webinars and from continuing education and career development tools to SOT Awards and the Endowment Fund, the SOT website and its companion ToXchange are your 24/7 toxicology aides.
As SOT President Peter L. Goering discussed in his Winter President’s Message, we have updated and altered the ways in which the Society and its members can create informational pieces on topics of importance to and in toxicology, aka SOT Statements. These types of pieces can be great assets to the Society and its members while discussing or promoting these topics with the public or other scientists. Ideas for new statements can be proposed at any time by contacting the SOT Communications Manager, Michelle Werts (firstname.lastname@example.org, 703.438.3115 ext. 1640).
Beyond these activities, we continually are evaluating our communication channels and exploring new opportunities, which has resulted this year in a new style, while maintaining the same content, for the Annual Meeting publications and incorporating more articles from Toxicological Sciences into our social media activities. We also are constantly considering ways that communications can enhance and supplement the work occurring to support the other strategic priorities and will continue to do so in the coming year.