I hope all who attended our 55th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in New Orleans enjoyed the fine food, extraordinary music, and, last but not least, the most recent scientific advances that were presented in our sessions. The last time the meeting was in New Orleans was more than 10 years ago, and it was a pleasure to revisit this vibrant city. This year’s meeting was highly successful with more than 6,800 attendees, 170 scientific sessions, 2,800 abstracts, and 330 exhibitors—it was one of our largest meetings.
Perhaps the biggest change to our meeting this year was the new plenary session format. Instead of a single plenary session with one speaker, we organized daily plenary sessions with multiple speakers. Our goals were to foster the integration of other scientific disciplines with toxicology, bridge existing and emerging science in toxicology, and promote transformative science in toxicology. As many of you may recognize, these are three of the strategic objectives within the SOT strategic priority “To Strengthen the Impact and Relevance of Toxicology.”
Our Monday plenary session on regenerative medicine and tissue engineering featured presentations by Doris Taylor of the Texas Heart Institute (pictured right) and Joan Nichols of the University of Texas Medical Branch. Tuesday’s session focused on inflammation and neurogenerative disease with presentations by Stephen Skaper of the University of Padua and Alan I. Faden of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The final plenary session was the Medical Research Council (MRC) Keynote Lecture given by Robin J.M. Franklin of the University of Cambridge. Dr. Franklin wrapped up the series by discussing neural regeneration and stem cells with a focus on re-myelination.
Based not only on the outstanding science and perspectives brought by our invited speakers, but also on the very positive impression of the science of toxicology that we were able to provide to our invited speakers, the plenary program was highly successful in achieving its strategic goals.
The strategic efforts of Council over the last year focused on the priority to “Develop and Support Toxicologists to Capitalize on Future Opportunities.” In the early stages of our review, we were reminded that the Society’s commitment to attract, retain, and educate scientists in the field of toxicology constitutes a very large effort encompassing numerous programs. Although many of the outcomes of our deliberations over the year have been described in the Communiqué previously, I would like to highlight two key decisions that were made:
- Council determined that it was advantageous to provide focus to our recruiting efforts. Towards this end, we determined that the top priority should go to efforts that are specifically targeted to enhancing the recruitment of young scientists into the field of toxicology.
- Recognizing that recruiting alone is insufficient, Council determined that we should coordinate the numerous mentoring programs that are currently offered throughout the Society. These efforts are aimed at providing mentorship opportunities at all career stages with the goal of increasing the retention of scientists within our field. Such coordination not only will enhance the effectiveness, but also will maximize the efficiency of our efforts.
In the upcoming year, our strategic focus will shift to the priority of “Strengthening the Impact and Relevance of Toxicology.” Specifically, we will focus on the question of how the Society can enhance its efforts to increase the stature and recognition of toxicology among other biomedical scientists.
In the past, much attention has focused on enhancing toxicological awareness among the general public, press, and policymakers. Recognizing that the approaches used among highly trained scientists likely differ substantially from those for the general public, we feel it is appropriate to examine and optimize our efforts in this regard. We will undertake this effort with an open mind and will rely on input from the Society’s constituencies and committees, including the Clinical Scientist Engagement Task Force, as we develop a path forward.
Certainly, key to strengthening the impact and relevance of toxicology is developing the recognition among the biomedical scientific community of the unique perspectives and essential insights that toxicologists can bring to bear on issues related to toxicant-induced adverse health effects. Stay tuned for information on our efforts over the upcoming year.
In closing, I would like to thank all of the members of Council, in particular Past Presidents Peter Goering and Norb Kaminski for their unflagging efforts on behalf of the Society. All members of Council take seriously the responsibilities with which we are entrusted. Throughout the upcoming year, I and everyone else on Council will strive to act in good faith to further the best interests of the Society as we work towards our long-term vision of creating a safer, healthier world.
John B. Morris
SOT 2016‒2017 President