President's Message September 2013

DSC00189.JPGIt seems like just a short while ago that many of us were gathered in Tucson to hear the latest science on birth defects and other disorders of developmental origin. With the summer season coming to an end in a few weeks I wanted to update you on activities the Teratology Society is working on and remind you of the importance of keeping engaged.

2013 Annual Meeting  
For those of you who joined us in Tucson, we hope you found the meeting to be educational and a great way to interact with your colleagues and make new ones. There were a total of 265 individuals registered for the meeting, including 33 students and postdoctoral fellows. The Society appreciates the contributions of all of the speakers, session chairs, poster presenters, exhibitors, and general attendees to making the meeting a success. In addition, we are extremely thankful to those organizations who provided generous support for our annual meeting, thus making it possible for us to continue to bring in high quality speakers, and to contain the costs of the meeting, as much as possible.

Some of the highlights of the scientific sessions and other meeting events are captured in images taken by Bob Parker throughout the meeting. Be sure to check these out. For those of you who could not be there, we are sorry you could not join us, but we hope you will be able to attend next year in Bellevue, Washington, June 28-July 2. The Program Committee, ably led by our Vice President, Mary Alice Smith, is preparing a fabulous program with some innovative sessions that you would not want to miss. Details on the program will be forthcoming in future messages.

2013 Annual Meeting Survey Results
Following the meeting, a survey was issued to all attendees. The information received from such surveys is used to help the Society make decisions about future meeting sites, events, and scientific programs. Approximately 20% of the attendees responded. The majority of the respondents found the Education Courses, the special lecturers, and the symposia and platform sessions to be either excellent or very good. The majority who responded attended the poster sessions and found them to be in the excellent, very good, and good range. Input solicited for topics (new or continued) for future meetings was taken into consideration by the 2014 Program Committee, who although had a large part of the program already outlined, were, nonetheless, able to accommodate a number of these suggestions. This input will be valuable also to the 2015 Program Committee when they begin their planning. As expected, these topics mirror the multi-disciplinary nature of the membership. When asked what topics were not needed, only 8% of the respondents had an opinion, whereas the rest either did not answer the question or said they found it all of interest and valuable and appreciated the balance in the sessions aimed at providing the latest science across the multiple disciplines represented by our membership. The majority of the respondents indicated that their favorite element of the meeting was “networking,” followed by the annual staples of our meeting, including integration of basic and clinical teratology, the special lectures, the poster sessions, and of course, volleyball. There was interest in having some of the presentations made available as webinars – especially some of those in the education courses, special lectures, and symposia. Over 68% of the respondents felt that the length of the overall meeting was “just about right.” From a series of questions on general input to the meeting and destination/location, the following messages could be gleaned – respondents want a destination that is aesthetically pleasing and easily accessible, costs to be contained, high quality speakers to be brought in, breaks to include coffee, opportunities for networking, accessibility to nearby attractions and restaurants, keeping to the specified time in the program, and posting of any last minute changes to the program outside meeting rooms. Some wanted the meeting in urban cities and others in resorts (but those with better accessibility to nearby restaurants than what existed in Tucson). The demographics for the respondents were 55.8% from academia, 23.3% from industry, 16.3% from government, and 4.7% from CROs.

If you did not get a chance to respond to the survey or did not receive it because you were not at the meeting, we still would value your thoughts. Feel free to send us an email any time. Your input gets factored into the decision-making on future meetings. As of now, meeting sites have been selected through 2016, and Council is looking into sites beyond then. In addition to considering joint meetings with the Neurobehavioral Teratology Society (NBTS) and the Organization for Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), we are exploring the possibility of meeting jointly with other related Societies.

The feedback you provide is considered when decisions are made to contain the costs of the annual meeting and choosing venues and facilities that meet the high standards we have come to expect while providing us with the best sleeping room rates. We include a mix of highly esteemed member and non-member speakers in our symposia to contain the costs of paying the expenses of those who would not otherwise attend our meeting. Council discusses the pros and cons as to what amenities to provide at the meeting and the impact that each one of those would have on the registration fee (e.g., should we provide a continental breakfast each morning, what snacks should be included at the poster sessions, what beverages and food should we have at breaks, should the banquet be a buffet or a plated seated event, can we provide free internet service). One of the key ways that costs are contained is by receiving funding from federal agencies and corporate sponsors. Every year we submit applications to federal agencies seeking support. In fact, our application to NIH for support for the 2014 annual meeting was submitted last month. Our members who are employed by corporations that provide support for scientific meetings have been instrumental in helping us secure support each year. However, we know that with changes in the economic landscape over the last few years, some of the practices in applying/receiving support from them has changed. Please be sure to let us know if your corporation has a new process - for example, do we need to prepare an application or send in a targeted request, is there a specific deadline that must be met. We want to be sure that we are capitalizing on all opportunities that may be available to us.


Progress on Implementing the Strategic Plan
The Teratology Society Council and Committees are all continuing to work on implementing the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. Future messages will provide updates on activities related to the strategic intents of “increasing our influence” and “expanding our membership.”

The Strategic Plan points out that the Society’s vision is to be “the premier source for cutting-edge research and authoritative information related to birth defects and other disorders of developmental origin.” In the last few months, the expertise and cooperation of the Society was sought on two important matters.


  • The Teratology Society was invited to join the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Thyroid Association, the Endocrine Society, and the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders Global Network in submitting a comment for review by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC) recommending that preconception, pregnant, and lactating U.S. women take a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 150 µg of iodine as potassium iodide. The statement highlighted the need for adequate iodine intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding to ensure adequate neurocognitive development in the fetus and developing infant. It pointed out a marked decline in dietary iodine intake in the U.S. over the last four decades, resulting in iodine deficiency among pregnant women in recent national surveys. It promoted the need for pregnant and lactating women to eat a varied diet rich in iodine-containing foods, as well as recommending the supplementation of prenatal vitamins. Every 5 years the DGAC, as Congressionally mandated, issues a report on Dietary Guidelines for Americans that is used by HHS, USDA, and federally supported nutrition programs. As the process progresses, there will be an opportunity to provide oral testimony at public meetings. The next one is scheduled for October 3-4, 2013. We will keep you posted, but you can also follow this process at


  • Furthermore, input from our Society members was solicited regarding the use of historical control data. The FDA/PhUSE (Pharmaceutical Users Software Exchange) Nonclinical Working Group, Historical Controls Subteam will be developing recommendations for high priority projects regarding the use of historical control data. Prior to doing so they sought input from those who had experience with historical control data. Approximately 400 responses to the survey were received. The Subteam is preparing a paper that will be published in the first half of 2014 which will include a description of the results. It will tackle the issue of feasibility of potential historical control data projects, both those listed in the survey and those raised by survey respondents. The Society has offered its support as this process unfolds. You can learn more about this effort at


Keeping our Members Engaged and Informed and Soliciting your Input
Every few weeks you receive a notice with updates from the Society. Are you taking advantage of clicking onto that link and finding out the latest information? Society news and announcements are posted first to Birth Defects Research (BDR) Connection. I encourage you to visit frequently either on your own or when prompted by messages. You can find information on the Society’s Committees, eligibility criteria for all of our awards, copies of key position papers/publications, a student/postdoc corner, and the searchable membership directory with photographs. In addition, it provides you access to information put together by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); it is the largest coalition of biomedical researchers in the US, composed of 27 scientific societies, of which the Teratology Society is one, and representing over 110,000 researchers – they provide the latest Congressional actions related to biomedical research, background materials on what you can do to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill, and many other resources.

The Society is also on Facebook. Be sure to “like” us and share our postings with your other “friends.” We recently posted a link to an article on diabetes and pregnancy related research conducted by Dr. Albert Reece, a speaker in the 2013 Public Affairs Committee/Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine Symposium, and Dr. Peixin Yang (the F. Clarke Fraser New Investigator Awardee for 2013), both from the University of Maryland.

Part of improving the Society’s visibility is making others outside the Society aware of who we are and what we do. One way to do this is to put the spotlight on our members’ activities. Be sure to let us know of your outstanding accomplishments and/or key publications so we can highlight them on our website, through BDR Connection, and/or on Facebook.

Monday, September 9th is the International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day. As members of the Teratology Society we are all too keenly aware of the devastating effects consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can have. But the public needs to continually be reminded. The FASDay website has information that you can share on Facebook and other ideas to promote awareness in your communities.

Lastly, I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your President. It is indeed an honor. Over the next year, as noted above, together we will work to implement the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan and continue “pushing the boundaries” to strengthen the Society.


Best regards,

Elaine Francis


1 Comment

President's message

December 1, 2013 07:36 PM by Edward W. Carney, PhD

Nice message, Elaine.  Thanks for your efforts to keep membership informed.

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