Toxicology in Jinan

Communique Fall 2017 Masthead.png

Miller and Jiang edit.pngToxicological Sciences (ToxSci) has been increasing efforts to realize its global presence, especially in Asia. We have translated some of the journal material into Chinese, and Toxicological Sciences has added an associate editor from China, Yiguo Jiang, Guangzhou Medical University. Dr. Jiang has expertise in chemical carcinogenesis and noncoding RNA and will work with our editorial and publishing team to expand our networks in China.

One billion more people reside in China than in the United States—that’s more people than reside in the entire European Union. With such a large population, one would suspect that environmental health and toxicology would be important topics of research, and, indeed, this is true. So I witnessed as I attended the 10th National Toxicological Congress of the Chinese Society of Toxicology in Jinan, China, October 15–18, 2017, where I was asked to speak about how the exposome can be used to advance toxicology and to discuss our efforts at ToxSci. More formal than the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, the National Toxicological Congress had nearly 3,000 attendees, and many of the sessions were held in a beautiful concert hall that could hold all the attendees. Many scientists and trainees shared their work through the numerous Poster Sessions and Continuing Education courses, and smaller, more-focused symposia also were held. Many of the Scientific Sessions were in Chinese, although I found one that exclusively used slides in English to be quite informative. While my grasp of the Chinese language is non-existent, nearly every attendee I met was able to effectively communicate with me.

China has made major investments in its university system. This has resulted in an incredible expansion of their research capacity, and it is good to see that toxicology and environmental health are well-supported. The nanomaterials industry is booming in China, and there is considerable expertise and effort in this arena. Similar to many major cities in China, Jinan struggles with air pollution, and this was a major topic of the research and presentations at the meeting.

Gary Miller with a Confucius statueJinan is in the Shadong Province, approximately 240 miles south of Beijing. Confucius grew up in the Shadong Province, and pilgrimages to his hometown are popular treks for natives and tourist alike. Jinan also is home to 72 natural springs and is referred to as the Spring City. One can see people collecting water from these springs in large vessels to take back to their homes. Jinan is quieter than Beijing or Shanghai, but it is still a large, urban city with more than seven-million residents. 

Our hosts were incredibly gracious and treated us to the unique and charming Shadong cuisine (the Jinan style of the Lu cuisine). Rich and aromatic, the Jinan cuisine features a variety of seafood and vegetables and fish that are cooked and presented whole. They use cabbage, potatoes, and tomatoes instead of the vegetables generally considered to be Chinese by Americans. It is quite different that the Sichuan, Hunan, and Cantonese styles normally encountered in the United States.

Some scheduling constraints necessitated the use of the green sleeper train for the return to Beijing. I was later informed that the green train is not typically used for tourists; however, the journey was distinctly Chinese and a wonderful way to experience the subtleties of their culture. The security was heighted due to the annual meeting of the Chinese Communist Party and their exploration of luggage was thorough to say the least.

Facebook and Twitter are not used in China. I was introduced to the social media platform, WeChat.  WeChat is a powerful communication tool, and we hope to use it with ToxSci to promote various activities that are of interest to the Chinese toxicology community.  WeChat is an amalgamation of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, ApplePay or GooglePay, and Skype. It is an impressive and unifying platform, and you can find me on it through my WeChat ID, which is ToxSci.

The issues we face within the field of toxicology are global in nature. Often, we view our science through our localized lens. It is important as scientists and toxicologists to interact with others throughout the world. Emailing a manuscript is not the same as visiting countries, making friends, and experiencing culture. I encourage all toxicologists to host colleagues from other countries and to attend meetings outside their typical geographical constraints. It is a big world that is facing serious health challenges. Toxicologists are a critical part of the solution to these challenges, but we cannot resolve global problems from a provincial mindset. Go experience the world of toxicology.

SOT member Gary W. Miller, PhD, is editor-in-chief of Toxicological Sciences, SOT's official journal. He is a professor of environmental health at Emory University.

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