Influencing Legislation, Celebrating Partnerships, and Enhancing Programs and Bylaws

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By John Morris posted 08-17-2016 13:22

  

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On June 22, US President Barack Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which reformed the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). It passed the US House of Representatives by a 403 to 12 vote and the US Senate by a voice vote, indicating incredibly strong bipartisan support for the final bill. This bill has been in development for several years, and throughout the process, SOT has been actively involved through the exemplary efforts of our TSCA Task Force. Our goals were to ensure the act reflected sound toxicological principles and risk concepts, that it allowed flexibility in selection of the best available scientific approaches for risk assessment, and ensured that consistent, scientifically accurate, and unambiguous terminology be used throughout the act. Through the truly outstanding efforts of our Task Force, our Society supplied US Congress members and staff with sound and objective advice on issues related to toxic chemicals. The final language of the bill shows that the TSCA Task Force clearly had an impact. This activity was an unparalleled success for the Society, and I want to take this opportunity to thank each member of the Task Force for their efforts on our behalf: Susan J. Borghoff, PhD, DABT, ToxStrategies Inc.; Deborah A. Cory-Slechta, PhD, University of Rochester Medical Center; Dennis J. Devlin, PhD, ExxonMobil Corporation; Ronald S. Filler, PhD, Drug Development Consultants Inc.; Michael A. Gallo, PhD, ATS, DABT, Rutgers University; George M. Gray, PhD, George Washington University; Michael P. Holsapple, PhD, ATS, Michigan State University; Mark Lafranconi, PhD, DABT, Tox Horizons LLC; James C. Lamb IV, PhD, DABT, ATS, Exponent Inc.; Moiz Mumtaz, PhD, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Lisa Tonner Navarro, PhD, DABT, ERT, Givaudan Flavors Corporation; Nancy J. Rachman, PhD, ILSI North America; Ruthann A. Rudel, MS, Silent Spring Institute; Robert S. Skoglund, PhD, DABT, CIH, Covestro; and especially the Task Force chairs, Daland R. Juberg, PhD, ATS, Dow AgroSciences, and William H. Farland, PhD, Colorado State University. [For more on the TSCA reform activities and the role SOT can play in legislative issues, see “Educating Legislators: How SOT Influenced TSCA Reform,” Communiqué Summer 2016]

LenoxK16_1584z037 crop edit.jpgAnother recent success of the Society was the symposium we sponsored on July 13 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Widely attended, both in person and online, this symposium focused on the close interactions between NIEHS and SOT over the last five decades. SOT Past Presidents David L. Eaton, PhD, ATS, University of Washington, and Cheryl Lyn Walker, PhD, Texas A&M Institute of Biosciences and Technology, highlighted numerous joint activities, including the strong input from SOT members on NIEHS advisory panels, as well as the efforts to reestablish a US National Institutes of Health (NIH) toxicology-focused study section for review of grant applications. Phoebe Stapleton, PhD, West Virginia University, spoke eloquently on the perspectives of a new investigator and how both SOT and NIEHS played important roles in the development of her career in the field. Not overlooked was the role of NIEHS toxicology training grants in developing future leaders in the field. Since 1970, nearly 15% of the members of SOT Council were supported as students by NIEHS training grants. The symposium was a resounding success, and we look forward to another 50 years of strong cooperation and collaboration. [For more on the relationship between NIEHS and SOT, see “NIEHS Centers and Funding Support SOT Toxicologists,” Communiqué Spring 2016. For a recap of the event and presentations, read the NIEHS Environmental Factor article “The Society of Toxicology and NIEHS — 50 Years of Collaboration.”]

In the spring Communiqué, I highlighted our desire to optimize the Society’s efforts in recruitment, education, and retention by ensuring optimal coordination of our activities in this regard. To this end, we established the Interplay of Undergraduate Programs Task Force. This task force is composed of past members of the Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Education Committee and will work in communication with the current chairs of these committees to fulfill its two-fold charge:

  • Assessing our current undergraduate programs.
  • Generating ideas for new approaches to engage and recruit undergraduates in toxicology.

Council looks forward to receiving their input over the upcoming year.

Recent Council activity also is focusing on a revision of the SOT Bylaws. Our July Council meeting included lengthy and spirited discussion among all Council members about the overall structure of our Bylaws, as well as the specific details within. A goal that emerged from this session was the desirability to streamline the Bylaws without diminishing the importance of the components and activities enumerated within them. Stay tuned for further information as our work progresses.

In closing, I would like to personally thank the members of the Society who have so graciously agreed to take an active role on a committee or other Society activity. As president, I have reached out to many (perhaps too many!) people to ask if they would be willing to serve in some capacity. I am truly amazed that our members are so willing to commit their time and energies to further the Society. The shared goals and strong sense of community among our broad membership is perhaps the greatest strength of our Society. This strength is recognized and greatly appreciated by me and all of Council.

Warm regards,

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John B. Morris
SOT 2016‒2017 President

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