International ToxScholar Visit to David Tvildiani Medical University in Tbilisi, Georgia

The next deadline for ToxScholar applications is October 9.

I was fortunate to have support from the Society of Toxicology (SOT) International ToxScholar program to provide an introduction to toxicological sciences, in particular arsenic toxicology, to the third year medical students of the David Tvildiani Medical University in Tbilisi, Georgia, this September. I applied for this funding to visit Georgia because the Soviet Union operated arsenic mines at Tsana, Georgia, and there now is a legacy of pollution there that led to high arsenic levels (up to 88 ppm) in the Tskhenistskali River. I thought there might be opportunities for a future collaboration with Georgian institutions to assess the public health implications of the legacy pollution. One of the medical students during my visit volunteered that she had gone swimming in that river. She also commented that the school rarely got international scholars to visit and so she was very excited to be able to attend this talk.

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As medical students, this group had some background already in basic toxicological principles (including familiarity with cytochrome P450 enzymes), but even with their training in pharmacology and molecular biology, they were surprised by the variety of career paths open to people with toxicology training. I made a point to share with them the details about the upcoming SOT Annual Meeting in Baltimore, the resources and travel grants available to them as international students, and the advantages of SOT membership including the online curricular materials. These students were sophisticated and so I think they would benefit from the more detailed, and narrow, topical materials online.

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My slideshow-based presentation allowed for about 20 minutes of questions and answers, and they wanted more information on the arsenic-specific content, so the talk ended up being a lot more advanced than I had originally expected. It was fun to provide details on arsenic hazards to an educated group.

Overall, this was a successful visit with fairly good medical student turnout with 30 in attendance, and at least one of the students (the one who had gone swimming in the arsenic-contaminated river) appeared very motivated to pursue future opportunities in arsenic toxicological research. Thanks again SOT for providing this opportunity to cultivate relationships with a Georgian medical university and introduce students there to an arsenic challenge in their own backyard.

 

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