President’s Corner: Carey Drews-Botsch

cdbotschA huge thanks to everyone who made our 29th Annual Meeting in Miami this past June a success.  This includes all of the presenters, moderators, the reviewers and the engaged audience.  In particular, I would like to thank those working behind the scenes – the Executive Committee, especially Suzan Carmichael, our outgoing president who organized a wonderful, intellectually stimulating meeting.  I also want to thank our out-going officers: Sonia Hernandez-Diaz (past president), Una Grewal (secretary – who, graciously offered and has been elected to serve another term), Lynne Messer (member-at-large) and Cassie Gibbs-Pickens (Student Representative).

The meeting kicked off with a thought-provoking session related to an issue of importance to all epidemiologists, precision medicine.  Discussants Michael Joyner, Nigel Paneth and Sandro Galea commented on the rise of precision medicine, along with the potential challenges and concerns for public health.  They noted the limitations of this approach in being able to prevent a substantial proportion of disease.  The next day, Dr. Galea continued this line of thinking in his Keynote Speech entitled “The principles of population health science: Implications for perinatal and pediatric epidemiology research” in which he commented on the divergent goals of overall improvement of health in a population, while simultaneously minimizing disparities within the population.

Our roundtable sessions were well-attended, even though they were early in the morning, especially for those coming from the West Coast.  The timely nature of their topics, focusing on the emerging public health crisis associated with Zika infection and with the implications of immigration to pediatric and perinatal outcomes, was a huge draw. Other highlights of the meeting included the initiation of speed posters, which were well-received, and of trainee poster awards.  All in all, it was a great meeting in which intellectual dialogue and networking were at the forefront.

However, unlike in past years, our work in Miami did not end with the Business Meeting at 6:00pm on Tuesday.  The Society was welcomed, for the first time, as a full member of the 4th Epidemiology Congress of the Americas.  We are grateful to past presidents Martha Werler and Robert Platt for spearheading our involvement in the Epi Congress, and we are proud to recognize another past SPER president, Russ Kirby, as Congress Chair.  SPER members were engaged in a wide variety of Congress activities and sponsored a symposium entitled “A Critical Period? Fetal Exposures and Adult Health” moderated by Samantha Parker and Martha Werler.

I would also like to thank those of you who responded to our post-meeting survey.  The survey provides the Executive Committee with answers to key questions so that we can build on the successes of the past to improve both the work of the Society and our annual meeting.  Based on this feedback, I am hoping to work to ensure that the Society highlights a balance of methodologic work, and etiologic work related to pregnancy and perinatal outcomes, and pediatric conditions.  I am also looking forward to reaching out to our international members and in working to ensure that the benefits of SPER membership last all year.  Additionally, although I have some ideas for doing this that are still in the fetal stage, please send me other thoughts and ideas that you have.

As we look towards our 30th annual meeting in Seattle, next June, I trust that we will have a meeting that will be as intellectually stimulating and engaging as last year’s, and one that highlights our work over the past three decades.  Although there has been discussion of expanding the length of next year’s meeting, it does not seem possible to do so, at this time, given the availability of meeting space.  However, the Executive Committee is already hard at work to ensure that the meeting is packed full of scholarship and community-building.  In the meantime, as Matthew Klingle said in Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle, “We need a … place, one that has room for salmon and skyscrapers, suburbs and wilderness, Mount Rainier and the Space Needle, one grounded in history.”  I’m looking forward to seeing you all there.