This year, I had the honor of receiving the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Diversity Initiatives Endowment Career Development Award from the SOT Committee on Diversity Initiatives. This award afforded me the opportunity to attend the American Thoracic Society (ATS) International Conference in San Francisco, California, May 15–18, 2022.
The ATS makes significant contributions in tobacco research and policy-related initiatives. Therefore, attending a conference of this caliber was vital to my training in inhalation/respiratory toxicology, and it was in line with my area of research investigating pulmonary effects of alternative nicotine delivery products, such as electronic cigarettes.
This was my first time attending the ATS conference, and I was truly excited to be selected to deliver a poster-discussion presentation session at the meeting. I also was thankful to receive the ATS Minority Trainee Development Scholarship (MTDS) that is geared toward increasing diversity and representation in pulmonary medicine and research science. I was honored along with many other trainees with a certificate during the Diversity Forum at the meeting, and it really meant a great deal to me that my advisor and my cousin were there to support me at the event.
My major objectives for attending this conference were to (1) network, (2) attend career development seminars, and (3) completely immerse myself in learning about pulmonary research from both a clinical and scientific perspective.
- For networking, I attended events for students, early career scientists, and seasoned professionals that fostered a fun and non-pressured environment. More importantly, I was able to establish connections with investigators to ask research questions that provided me with a different perspective and approach toward my work as well as potential postdoctoral training opportunities in similar fields of study.
- For career development, I attended many talks that provided information regarding career choices in academia and industry. I also participated in the ATS mentor/mentee match-up program, where I was mentored by an early career investigator that provided me with a wealth of guidance, advice, and clarity regarding my next steps in deciding a career after doctoral study.
- To enhance my knowledge in pulmonary science and medicine, I attended several presentations related to tobacco science to learn more about current topics in the field, as well as to gain an appreciation for the work of other researchers around the world. I also was exposed to a wide range of research topics, such as the relationship between cellular senescence and lung repair responses and ways of improving care among patients with lung diseases and critical illnesses. As a result, I was able to increase my knowledge in pulmonary research and learn about subjects of which I was previously unaware.
Overall, the ATS meeting was a fantastic experience that was indispensable to my training and professional goals. In the upcoming year, I would like to pay this experience forward by participating in mentoring events that would aid undergraduate or graduate students in finding the right career path, as well as how to effectively network with professionals. Thank you, SOT, for supporting my education and professional pursuits.