The SOT Council and the Endowment Fund Board greatly appreciate the financial and other contributions made by the membership. Congratulations to Bruce A. Fowler, PhD, ATS, for his dedication to the Society and for achieving “Visionary” status through his financial support of endowed funds that provide awards to address environmental concerns. Here, Dr. Fowler elaborates on his vision regarding the importance of SOT engagement in protecting public health.
If one looks up the word “visionary” in the dictionary, there is usually reference to a person who has original and innovative ideas that may help shape the future. Over the course of my career, I have attempted to make such contributions to the science of toxicology in the areas of mechanisms of metal-induced cell injury, molecular biomarkers, chemical mixtures, and applications of computational toxicology for risk assessment. It is now my hope to encourage others at early stages in their careers to take up the challenges of the future and apply the tools of modern science to protecting the health of humans and other species from adverse chemical exposure effects on a global basis.
This is no small task, as there are now 80,000–100,000 chemicals in commerce and 500+ new ones each year. A number of these new chemicals and pharmaceuticals are also being prepared as nanomaterials, which can greatly alter their properties. There is much to be learned about these new agents on an individual or mixture basis. In addition, consideration should be given to the fact that a number of these chemicals, including from electronic waste, are being made, used, and dumped or recycled in developing countries with limited resources for protecting the public health of their citizens. Advancements in chemical technology are essential for economic development, jobs, and meeting the challenges of feeding our growing world population, now estimated at more than 7.6 billion and growing. It is worth noting that Earth is quite simply a spaceship with finite space and resources to support all the life forms that currently exist. For life to continue here, we must think smart and make wise decisions going forward to balance the need to develop useful new chemicals/pharmaceuticals with the need to protect public health and the environment. Clearly, toxicologists have a central role to play in helping to strike an effective balance between these needs.
Finally, in my view, the toxicology community must continue to strengthen its societal commitment by providing solid information to our societal decision-makers to enable the best possible courses of action to preserve the health and well-being of all life on this planet with regard to chemical and pharmaceutical agent exposures. To do this, we need a constant influx of young, well-trained toxicologists in every country to provide this information, and we need to give them the skills to effectively communicate ever more complex science to the lay public and societal decision-makers. Above all else, in my opinion, senior scientists must strive to encourage and support the next generation of toxicologists and teach them to believe in themselves and not be afraid of a new idea or finding if it is based on sound science. History is replete with stories of important findings, which sometimes resulted in Nobel Prizes, that were delayed or discouraged because they did not fit into a prevailing dogma. The Society of Toxicology has a central role to play in training and developing future generations of toxicologists to bring this wish to fruition. To this end, I have endowed two SOT scholarship funds (Metals and Global Chemicals) to help this effort and encourage others to participate in a similar manner. There is much to be done, and time is not on our side, but I believe that by working together on an international basis and maximizing use of new scientific tools, we can work the problem in an effective manner—if we choose to do so. Please join me and others who have contributed to the SOT Endowment Funds to make the above hope a reality.
Bruce A. Fowler, PhD, ATS, holds a BS degree in Fisheries (Marine Biology) from the University of Washington and a PhD in Pathology from the University of Oregon Medical School. He began his scientific career at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences prior to becoming director of the University of Maryland System-wide Program in Toxicology and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He then served as associate director for science in the Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine at ATSDR. He is currently a private consultant in toxicology and risk assessment, adjunct professor at the Emory University School of Public Health, and President’s Professor of Biomedical Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Fowler is an internationally recognized expert on the toxicology of metals and has served on many state, national, and international committees in his areas of expertise. He is a current member of the FAO/WHO JECFA committee. Dr. Fowler has been honored as a fellow of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, was a Fulbright Scholar and Swedish Medical Research Council Visiting Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and was elected as a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. He has served on the Council of the Society of Toxicology and the Board of Directors of both the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and the Fulbright Association.
Dr. Fowler is the author of more than 260 research papers and book chapters and has authored or edited/co-edited eight books or monographs on metal toxicology, molecular biomarkers, and mechanisms of chemical-induced cell injury.