I am honored that you have given me this opportunity to serve as your President. In this, my first Communiqué message, I would like to take a moment to reflect on our Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, but then look to the future and provide an update on the Society’s new Strategic Plan.
Although there were many concerns from our membership about the location of the 2019 Annual Meeting, Baltimore was an outstanding event. We were blessed with beautiful weather, attendance was higher than that of our 2018 meeting, and the science presented was outstanding. I want to thank all who worked so hard to make the meeting a success, including all those who developed proposals for the program and organized Component Group meetings; the SOT staff members, who always do such a remarkable job; and, of course, all who attended. I want to pass along a compliment offered by our keynote speaker, William Murphy, PhD. This was the third time Dr. Murphy has attended an SOT Annual Meeting, and he commented that a unique feature of our meeting and our Society was the rigor of the science presented at our Annual Meeting combined with the collegiality of our membership. This is something of which we can all be proud!
How do we move forward and build upon the success of our 2019 Annual Meeting? One direction forward that I believe will have maximum benefit is to actively engage in implementing our new Strategic Plan, which was presented to the membership at our meeting in Baltimore. The plan was well received, and Council has already taken steps to begin implementing it.
One of these actions involves optimizing the Society’s efficiency (Strategic Objective D2). Recognizing the importance and past success of our Education Committee’s and Undergraduate Education Subcommittee’s efforts to develop a program to recruit undergraduates into toxicology, Council made the decision to form a new committee focused on undergraduate recruitment and education: FUTURE (Faculty United for Toxicology Undergraduate Recruitment and Education). Led by Christine Curran, PhD, and Mindy Reynolds, PhD, FUTURE is already pursuing its charge with enthusiasm.
Another committee that has had great success is the Career Resource and Development (CRAD) Committee, but in looking at the Education Committee’s focus on graduate education and beyond, we realized there was an overlap with CRAD’s priorities. As a result, Council has merged CRAD and the Education Committee into a new committee: the Education and Career Development Committee (ECDC). Led by Agnes Karmaus, PhD, and Pamela Lein, PhD, the ECDC also has embraced its charge and are moving forward with renewed energy. A key component of the ECDC will be a formal mentoring program. The Society’s Mentoring Task Force has been actively engaged in developing such a program, which will be folded into the activities of the ECDC in 2020.
Within Council, we also have taken steps to optimize efficiency. Council has established four oversight subcommittees for education, finance, meetings, and essential functions of the Society. Council contacts to Component Groups and committees will report out to the appropriate oversight subcommittee before each Council meeting to identify any strategic or other issues that need to be brought before the entire Council. Council hopes this change will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our valuable, bimonthly, face-to-face meetings.
Four other Strategic Objectives that will be a focus during the upcoming year include A2—implementing a forward-looking strategy for meetings and continuing education; A3—implementing a forward-looking strategy for publications and issue statements; B3—developing leadership and communication skills among members; and B4—facilitating career development using mentoring and other approaches. There will be many opportunities for SOT committees and Component Groups to actively engage in achieving these objectives.
Perhaps the most transformative of the four Strategic Priorities will be increasing the Society’s influence through science communication. The overarching goal of this priority is to develop and implement strategies to better “influence the influencers.” This Strategic Priority will be a major focus for Council in 2019 and 2020, and a Council subcommittee has already been formed to develop a strategy for communication and engagement. In the meantime, Council has identified opportunities available through our FASEB membership to begin achieving this Strategic Priority. On June 20, FASEB is partnering with the Coalition for Life Sciences to host a Life Science Fair and Reception at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC. SOT has agreed to help sponsor this event and will have a table at the reception with three of our members preseent, who will engage with congressional representatives and their staff to highlight the value of toxicology research in regulatory and policy decision-making. Stay tuned as Council fully develops the strategy to achieve this priority and identifies opportunities for Society members to actively engage in communication efforts.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your President. I look forward to regularly engaging with you and to working together to advance the Society and our mission.