The Trail of a Past President

July 2013 - Outgoing President's Year in Review

In this last message to you as outgoing President of the Teratology Society, I would like to summarize the goals and accomplishments of Council over this past year. Before getting into the details, I’d first like to say that it’s been a great honor to serve as your President, and an experience I will cherish forever. I am deeply grateful to my colleagues on Council for their hard work and team spirit, Tonia Masson and the staff at TS Headquarters for their behind the scenes work to keep the Society running smoothly, our committee chairs and committee members who carried out our programs and activities, and finally, the many Past Presidents and other Society leaders who offered words of wisdom and encouragement.

Council and I strongly believe that we need to be accountable to our members. In that spirit, I submit to you this review of our goals and accomplishments over this past year.


The first set of goals was intended to get implementation of the new 2012-2017 Strategic Plan off to a quick start. We took a combined top-down and bottom-up approach in which Council, assisted by a Strategic Plan Launch Team, described the general strategic intents of the Plan, but looked to the committees to develop their own ideas on how to accomplish the specific elements of the plan which were most relevant to their committee. This was an iterative process considerable discussion between the Launch Team, Council and committee chairs.

Goal: Council, in conjunction with the Strategic Plan Launch Team, will ensure that all Teratology Society Committees clearly understand their role in implementing the Strategic Plan and that their roles and specific goals related to the Strategic Plan are agreed upon and documented.


  • Roll-out of Plan at 2012 annual meeting via blog articles, business meeting, and committee meetings.
  • Document summarizing the suggested roles of each committee in SP implementation was shared with committees and used to guide discussions between Launch Team, Council and committees. Role of each committee in SP implementation was mutually agreed.
  • Manuscript on the Plan published in January issue of BDR-A and posted on BDR Connection.

Goal: Council will foster increased coordination with, and accountability from, Teratology Society committees by instituting regular systematic contact with committee chairs. This will be achieved by periodically inviting committee chairs to Council conference calls to verbalize action and concerns and/or by ensuring periodic contact with an assigned Council liaison).


  • Program, PAC, Finance, and Publications chairs present at every Council meeting. Fraser Award, Education, Membership, Website, Student Affairs, Science, and FASEB chairs joined one monthly Council conference call to discuss their role in SP implementation. Remaining committees met offline with Council leadership.

Goal: Council will institute an annual Teratology Society leader training web meeting for committee chairs and co-chairs. This will be repeated annually during Council 1B by the President.


  • Training presentation developed and first session completed via WebEx in October, 2012.
  • A live session was repeated for new Chairs and Vice Chairs at Council 1B.
  • Plans are to continue this training each year.

Goal: Council will implement a revised process for determining Committee composition annually prior to the Annual Meeting with a goal for committee composition to be finalized by the end of the Annual Meeting. Committee composition will be discussed during the April teleconference with Council after receiving input from the committee chairs.


  • New process successfully implemented. Rosters and chairs for new 2013-2014 committees were completed by the end of annual meeting, with most completed prior to it. Increased engagement of committee chairs in leadership succession planning.

The remaining goals and accomplishments generally aligned with one of the three main elements of the Strategic Plan. As it is a five-year plan, the accomplishments can be described as initial steps toward longer-term goals. We launched a number of new initiatives, and also tried to implement them in such way that future Councils and committees could sustain momentum through subsequent years.


Goal: Council will develop strategies to institutionalize newly developed relationships with Funding Organization Program Officers, March of Dimes, and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM).


  • A constitutional change converting the Science Committee from ad hoc to a standing committee has been put to membership. The role of the Science Committee will include targeting new areas of science for TS to pursue, and to develop strategic partnerships with other science organizations and funding agencies.
  • A session with funding agency officers was included in the 2012 annual meeting, and will be repeated periodically.
  • An exchange program with SMFM has been initiated at TS and SMFM meetings.
  • TS has established a positive relationship with Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, March of Dime’s new VP for Research, who has been very supportive of TS and has presented at the 2012 and 2013 meetings.

Goal: Council will explore options for closer coordination with sister societies and communicate activity to membership.


  • Met with NBTS several times to discuss opportunities for better coordination, mainly with respect to annual meeting planning and finances. Achieved a much better understanding of and satisfaction with the agreed processes, and documented agreements and best practices in order to sustain for future leadership.


Goal: Council will foster the creation of a communications plan for internal and external visibility. An ad hoc Communications Work Group was created and charged with development of an overarching communications plan to promote increased internal and external visibility of Teratology Society. This communications plan will be delivered to Council by May 1, 2013.


  • Created an ad hoc Communications Work Group.
  • Initial draft of an overarching communications plan was submitted to Council in June and is due for finalization by end of August.
  • Exploring potential use of OTIS’s dedicated communications consultant.
  • Use of BDR Connection showed a significant increase over past 12 months.


Goal: Council will task the Membership Committee, with input from the Science Committee, to develop a membership recruitment plan, to include identification of specific areas of scientific research and employment sectors (e.g., clinicians) to target for recruitment.


  • Membership Committee conducted an analysis of factors driving member attrition (mostly job related).
  • Membership Committee has agreed on the general concept for a membership recruitment drive.
  • Recruitment drive to be rolled out in Year 2.

Goal: Council will support and promote outreach to new Teratology Society members to enhance their understanding of Teratology Society (e.g., new member welcome packet), and will develop best practices to promote their long-term retention as active members via involvement in various Society activities.


  • Fact sheets about TS developed for distribution to new members.
  • Council initiated a hosting program by which Council members personally welcome non-members attending the annual meeting.
  • Provided opportunities for engagement of early and mid-career members through participation on committees, chairing sessions, etc. as one means of developing future TS leaders.

Additional accomplishments not listed above included:

Thalidomide Archive – Under the leadership of Past President John Graham working with Drs. Kerstin Stromland and Marilyn Miller, video footage and analysis of individuals affected by thalidomide have been edited and assembled for archiving as educational materials. Some of this amazing footage was showcased at the annual meeting and should be available to members in the coming months. We encourage other TS members with materials for potential archiving to contact headquarters. Such materials could make a unique and lasting gift to the Society and the field of teratology.

BDR Electronic Subscriptions - Electronic subscriptions are now available to members. For those wishing to retain the ability to obtain a print copy, we also were able to negotiate this option for a reasonable additional cost.

In closing, I hope you found this summary of Council goals and accomplishments helpful. I wish the best of luck to our new President, Elaine Francis, and know that she will do a fantastic job just as she did in leading the 2013 Annual Meeting. Lastly, I encourage you to get involved in our Society in any way you can as we take the Teratology Society into the future.


Ed Carney



With warm regards,

Ed Carney



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