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ASIP Pathogenesis Blog

Executive Officer's Blog


A New Year and A New Beginning

William B. Coleman, PhD, Executive Officer

The End of an Era
"...every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end..."
Semisonic (Closing Time)

2018 marks the end of an era in the history of the American Society for Investigative Pathology. In early February, Dr. Mark Sobel will retire from the position of Executive Officer after 17 years of dedicated service to the organization. Dr. Sobel's tenure as Executive Officer saw numerous positive changes within the organization. So many in fact, that I am hesitant to try to list them, knowing that the list will fall short and important accomplishments will be overlooked. Despite my trepidation, I will make an attempt. Under Dr. Sobel's leadership, the ASIP expanded trainee-related activities and opportunities for professional development (as well as opportunities for young independent investigators), implemented numerous educational initiatives and programs, established vibrant and active Scientific Interest Groups reflecting the diversity of pathology disciplines represented in our membership, and developed robust science advocacy on topics of greatest interest to our membership and their research. In addition, Dr. Sobel and the ASIP professional staff provided consistent oversight for our Annual Meetings at Experimental Biology, with exceptionally strong scientific programming each year. In recent years, Dr. Sobel provided support for development of a new free-standing scientific meeting (Pathobiology for Investigators, Scientists, and Academicians - PISA), which is growing is size and participation, and also features a strong scientific program. During Dr. Sobel's tenure, a number of new funds were established to support travel awards for trainees and young faculty members to attend our meetings. With respect to our publications, Dr. Sobel provided leadership as we moved from a self-publication model to managed publication by Elsevier Press (for both The American Journal of Pathology and The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics). In addition, Dr. Sobel guided the Publications Committee through several Editor-in-Chief searches for The American Journal of Pathology, each of which resulted in strong leadership for our premier journal. In the most recent of these searches, Dr. Martha Furie was named the first woman Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Pathology.

Over the years, Dr. Sobel provided excellent stewardship of the ASIP finances, has effectively managed our professional staff, and oversaw the move of our office from the FASEB campus into new commercial office space in Rockville MD (during 2017). In 2013, Dr. Sobel authored a history of the Society in conjunction with the Centennial Anniversary of the ASIP, which was celebrated at the Annual Meeting in Boston MA. And the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that I am only providing a glimpse of the tips of the icebergs with respect to the accomplishments of our Society under Dr. Sobel's leadership. It is impossible to express to Dr. Sobel the extent of our sincere thanks to him for all he has done for the ASIP over the last 17 years. His tenure has been an unqualified success and many of our members (me included) owe him a debt of gratitude for providing us with excellent opportunities to participate and lead in the endeavors of our Society. In recognition of Dr. Sobel's strong leadership and to continue to honor him moving forward, the ASIP Council has conferred to him the title of Executive Officer Emeritus. Dr. Sobel's leadership will be missed, but we will benefit from his continued counsel in his new role as Executive Officer Emeritus, as well as his renewed participation in Society activities and functions as a regular member moving forward. And so with the end of Dr. Sobel's time as Executive Officer, a new period in the history of the Society begins with a new Executive Officer and the hope that our Society will continue to be a strong leader among pathology organizations in the United States and around the world.

A Tremendous Opportunity
"...we live in houses we did not build and eat fruit from trees we did not plant..."
Paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:11 (the fifth book of the Torah and the Old Testament)

The greatest opportunity for a new executive (or administration) to succeed is to follow someone (or an administration) that failed. The probability of success under those circumstances increases with the magnitude of the previous failure. No such luck for me. To say that Dr. Sobel leaves behind big shoes to fill (and a legacy of excellence in leadership) is to understate the obvious. That said, it is a great honor to have been chosen for this position and to follow in Dr. Sobel's footsteps (and with his example). I am deeply grateful to the people within the ASIP and a few on the outside that encouraged me to pursue this opportunity. I would also like to thank the search committee and the ASIP Council for selecting me and providing the opportunity for a second chapter in my career. It is a privilege to follow in Dr. Sobel's footsteps and to benefit from the exceptional foundation he built for me (and all of us) to utilize as the Society continues to grow and evolve.

I have been an academic cancer researcher for my entire career to date. I joined the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine as a postdoctoral fellow in 1990. It was an excellent opportunity to work on liver stem cells and liver carcinogenesis with Dr. Joe W. Grisham, who was Chair of the Department at the time. My postdoctoral fellowship was provided by the Environmental Pathology Training Program that was led by Dr. David G. Kaufman. My exposure to these two faculty members (and several others) set into motion the events that have brought us to today. Both Drs. Grisham and Kaufman are past-presidents of the ASIP, as well as past-presidents of FASEB. They instilled in me and the other trainees in our Department the importance of membership in a professional society and the overall importance of the ASIP for investigators researching the pathology, pathogenesis, and pathophysiology of human diseases and model systems. The involvement of my Department with the ASIP goes back even further. Dr. Kenneth M. Brinkhous (the namesake of our research building in Chapel Hill) was also a past-president of both the ASIP and FASEB. Hence, our Department has longstanding close ties to the Society. Upon completion of my postdoctoral training, Dr. Grisham provided the opportunity to remain in Chapel Hill as a faculty member. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Grisham for taking chances on me as a postdoctoral fellow and then again as a faculty member. Upon Dr. Grisham's retirement, Dr. J. Charles Jennette was named as our new Chair. Dr. Jennette is a long-time member of the ASIP and was a faculty member in our Department prior to becoming Chair. Dr. Jennette continued the tradition begun by his predecessors of encouraging faculty members to engage in the scientific community at the national level through societies like the ASIP, and he always viewed my accomplishments working in the ASIP (and those of my faculty colleagues) as a positive reflection on our Department and institution.  

In parallel with the cancer research I was doing at UNC, the ASIP and its various activities became a side project of great interest when I was a young faculty member. My first involvement with the Society as a volunteer came when I was invited to join the Program Committee in 1998 (based upon the suggestion of my UNC colleague Dr. Bill Kaufmann, I suspect). I remained on the Program Committee for a number of years and was eventually elected to be Chair of the Program Committee. This early exposure to the ASIP and its membership through the Program Committee was extremely valuable and provided some insights as to how the ASIP operates as an organization. With election as Program Committee Chair, I joined the ASIP Council and was fortunate to spend 15 continuous years serving on the Council in various roles (including Councilor at-large, Secretary-Treasurer, and then in the Presidential succession). In 2015-2016, I served as President of the ASIP and found the experience to be very rewarding. Down through the years, I have had the opportunity to sit on many/most of the ASIP standing committees and a few ad hoc committees as well. All of these experiences afforded me the opportunity to become acquainted with the ASIP staff, elected leadership, and membership, and to learn the recent history of the organization. Hence, when the occasion arose to seek the position of Executive Officer, one of my best qualifications reflected this extensive interaction with the professional staff and membership of the ASIP over two decades of Society involvement. As the new Executive Officer, I will rely upon my own experience as an academic scientist and an active ASIP member to drive initiatives designed to benefit the membership and promote their individual professional development, as well as to represent them collectively as a vibrant segment of the collective scientific community.

Looking Towards the Horizon
"...we must run as fast as we can, to stay where we are..."
Paraphrased from Lewis Caroll (Through the Looking Glass)

Despite strong governance in the past from our professional staff and elected leaders, the ASIP faces challenges moving forward. Like everything else in the world, the scientific community and its members, and their wants and needs, change over time. At the same time, some challenges can only be managed and are never really solved. Hence, the challenges facing the ASIP in 2018 reflect some new and some old issues and problems, and we should expect new issues and problems to arise in the years to come. The target is always moving and requires our professional staff and elected leadership to be aware and agile, tactical and strategic, unafraid of change and wise in decision making. As we move through 2018, the professional staff, the Council, and our various committees will discuss and act on priorities and initiatives that we will pursue to advance the goals of the ASIP and to provide excellent benefits for our membership. In the process, there will be new opportunities for member engagement, and we hope that everyone will exploit those opportunities and participate enthusiastically in ASIP activities and events. We look forward to working with you and for you.

Articles By Month

September 2017
November 2016 - Member to Member...PISA 2016
July 2016
June 2016 - President's Perspective. . .Looking Back, Looking Forward
April 2016 - President's Perspective. . .Scientific Mentorship
March 2016 - President's Perspective. . .Experimental Biology 2016
February 2016 - President's Perspective. . .Membership Outreach
January 2016 - President's Perspective. . .The American Journal of Pathology
December 2015 - President's Perspective...Educating the Next Generation of Experimental Pathologists
November 2015 - President's Perspective...Scientific Interest Groups
October 2015 - President's Perspective. . .Engaging the Membership
September 2015 - President's Perspective. . .Focus on PISA 2015
August 2015 - President's Perspective...The future of the field
July 2015 - President's Perspective...Looking to the Near Future