Birth Defects Prevention and Beyond

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that you were able to enjoy some time off with your family and friends. I have always viewed it as a time to recharge to get through the winter months. I hope you do, too and apply that energy to continue to be an advocate for the Teratology Society’s mission, values, and strength.

Birth Defects Prevention Month and Beyond. January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and the second week of January was National Folic Acid Awareness week. I encourage you to use this opportunity to reach out and educate others about the work you do and about the significant contributions that members of the Teratology Society have made in identifying mechanisms by which birth defects and other developmentally-mediated disorders occur and efforts to prevent them. For example, give an open seminar in your community to educate the public. Or, write a letter to your Congressional representatives and remind them of the importance in their providing adequate support to federal agencies that fund important research in these areas. If you do not know who your representatives are or how to reach them, be sure to check out the link to FASEB on BDR Connection. FASEB provides valuable tools and excellent guidance on how best to reach out to Congress.

Materials on Birth Defects Prevention Month are available from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network and the CDC for you to utilize in your professional environment/daily setting. As noted previously, the Teratology Society membership has contributed in many significant ways to help ensure/promote the healthy outcome of mothers and babies. Let's promote this knowledge on our website--send your research highlights and accomplishments to Headquarters for consideration as a Society Spotlight.

The opportunity to highlight our achievements goes beyond January and should be part of the fabric of our daily activities. Throughout the year there are many commemorative months, weeks, and days in areas in which the Teratology Society has made contributions to the advancement of the science, directly or indirectly. For example, February is American Heart Month with the 7th-14th as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week; March is National Nutrition Month; April is both Autism Awareness and Alcohol Awareness Month; the first Monday in June is National Child’s Day; July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month; September 9th is the International Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day; October is National Pregnancy and Fetal Loss Month with the first Monday of the month as National Child Health Day and the 25th of the month as TS super stars.jpgHydrocephalus and Spina Bifida Awareness Day; and November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Last year the March of Dimes launched a campaign designating November as Prematurity Awareness Month. If you are aware of other relevant months, weeks, or days, please provide them to Headquarters. We will post these online as a reminder of an opportunity to promote the research and other activities we do to address these issues. Be sure to send information about your significant contributions in these areas, too. For an example of what we are looking for, see the Society Spotlight that was posted in November on Robert Brent who received the John Scott Award.

54th Annual Teratology Society Meeting. I hope the reminders and information about the 54th Annual Meeting in Bellevue have been helpful. Mary Alice Smith and the Program Committee have planned a fantastic program for the June meeting. Please take note that several deadlines are coming up in February – e.g, the deadline for abstract submission and travel award support is the 15th. Visit the website for details. Make plans early to participate and stay at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Bellevue. If you have not been to Bellevue, which is on the eastside of Seattle, you may be surprised by the surroundings. If you have visited Bellevue recently, then you already know that it is a great place for the Annual Meeting.

AM14 image.pngThere are several special activities I would like to bring to your attention. First, we will be holding a Silent Auction. We will need your assistance in receiving items to auction – these can be some prized out-of-print books authored by the early Society leaders, memorabilia from previous Society meetings, gift certificates for activities/restaurants in cities where the Society will be meeting or that may be popular destination spots, a photo, or anything you think members would be interested in getting into a little friendly bidding war. The funds raised from the Silent Auction are used to support student activities. Secondly, the Teratology Society is excited to present the first annual Student Competition for Technical Solutions for Preventing and Treating Birth Defects. This competition is intended to encourage engineering and other students, undergraduate and graduate, and their mentors to collaborate with researchers in the field of teratology and to challenge students to imagine novel solutions to technical problems in the study of mechanisms, prevention, and treatment of birth of defects. Check out our website to find out more information about these exciting activities.

Progress on Implementing the Strategic Plan. The Teratology Society Council and Committees are all continuing to work on implementing the 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. I’d like to update you on two of the strategic intents where further progress has been made since our meeting in Tucson.

  • At the Strategic Planning Meeting in 2012 it was agreed that in order to “increase our influence,” one of the identified strategic intents, that it was critical to develop a communications plan, a blueprint for how we would increase our visibility and outreach. A special Communications Workgroup, led by Melissa Tassinari and Alan Hoberman, developed a draft Communications Strategy that was submitted to Council. Last fall, Council determined the draft to be an excellent framework and convened an ad hoc team, ably led by Tacey White and Christine Curran, to build upon the draft and provide a more detailed roadmap for communicating our achievements and the appropriate audiences for our communications.
  • In addition, Council has asked the Membership Committee to address a second strategic intent of “expanding our membership.” They have been charged with coming up with innovative ways to improve our recruitment and retention of members. They have begun to implement some of their ideas. We will share more on these activities, with suggestions of how you can help, as further progress is made.

Interested in Serving on a Teratology Society Committee? Last year Council implemented a process to get the committees fully populated with incoming members by the end of our annual meeting. In order to facilitate the process, please let Headquarters know by the end of February if you are interested in serving on any of the Society’s committees. We will share your interest with the committee chairpersons. For a list of the committees and their responsibilities go to the website.

Remember to Update your Profile on BDR Connection. With the start of the New Year, now may be a good time to post an updated resume/CV and photo on BDR Connection. It’s a good way for other Society members to become familiar with you and your expertise.

Visit the Teratology website and BDR Connection regularly to obtain the latest information about the Annual Meeting and other activities. For example, the site provides information on other meetings of interest, grant opportunities, and job announcements. Did you know that the US Environmental Protection Agency is looking for a nationally and internationally recognized authority and leader on the impact of chemicals on endocrine systems? For more information regarding the this opportunity go to

US Federal Funding for 2014. With many of our members dependent upon federal funding, I thought it would be important to point out that last Friday, President Barack Obama signed into law the $1.1 billion dollar agreement to fund federal agencies in fiscal year 2014. The agreement brings science agencies roughly back to where they were in 2012, before sequestration took hold with automatic spending cuts that chopped 5% off of agency budgets in 2013. Still it falls short of what the President had originally requested.  View a table on what each science agency is expected to get. FASEB, of which the Teratology Society is a member, is to be commended for their effort in continuing to raise Congressional awareness of the need to fund biomedical research.

In closing, I would like to extend my best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year! I look forward to hearing about your achievements/activities to promote “pushing the boundaries” in strengthening the Society.


Elaine Z. Francis



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