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Meet Daniel Drucker the Society’s 2020 Transatlantic Medal winner

Dr Daniel Drucker is a clinical researcher involved in the development of treatments for diabetes, obesity and intestinal disorders at the University of Toronto Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. He also holds the Canada Research Chair in Regulatory Peptides and the Banting and best Diabetes Centre-Novo Nordisk chair in Incretin biology. He will be giving his Society Transatlantic Medal Lecture during SfE BES Online 2020. In this interview he tells us a little about his research and career.

Tell us about your research and lab in Toronto

I have a medium-sized lab of 8 people, where we use molecular biology and mouse physiology to study peptide hormone action. Whenever possible, we also try and extend our findings to humans, using available tissues, or occasionally, by carrying out small clinical trials. The lab has carried out basic research leading to two new treatments for type 2 diabetes and one new therapy for short bowel syndrome.

Tell us about your career path

I was very fortunate to learn molecular biology under the tutelage of Joel Habener in Boston. I returned to Toronto and was guided to adopt transgenic and knockout mice, which proved to be wise counsel. I think I am most proud of my dozens of trainees and their success. We also take pride in being extremely careful-that sounds trite, but we are generally not as concerned about being first, rather, we are very focused on making sure the data and observations are as correct as they can be. This article includes some of my career highlights in discovery, characterization, and clinical development of glucagon-like peptides.

What inspired you to choose endocrinology as a career?

I had a great role model, Gerard Burrow, who was an enthusiastic mentor, and head of endocrinology. At the same time, endocrinology was appealing since one could understand many of the disorders, and there were multiple treatments available to correct endocrine deficiencies or hormone excess states.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like the ability to ask questions, carry out experiments, and then scrutinise the answers. Watching trainees mature as scientists is also very enjoyable. Finally, having the good fortune to see basic science translated into new medicines is a privilege and extremely rewarding.

What are you presenting during your Medal Lecture at SfE BES Online 2020?

My presentation, ‘Incretins and Cardiometabolic Disease-An Inflammatory Perspective’ will examine how inflammation underlies many of the common endocrine disorders in metabolism, from type 2 diabetes to heart disease, to the complications of obesity and fatty liver. Gut peptides, exemplified by GLP-1, attenuate inflammation in many organ systems. I will describe how GLP-1 might work, and highlight many unanswered questions, surrounding the anti-inflammatory actions of GLP-1.

What do you think about the move to virtual meetings?

Virtual meetings allow for a broader and larger global audience, and enable us to continue to share data and concepts. I suspect that many of us still miss the social and personal interactions, and we will be keen to return to many of the in person meetings once this is feasible.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field?

Funding!

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I am hopeful that stem cell therapy will solve many challenges and mature to allow for true beta cell replacement therapy for people with type 1 diabetes.

Any words of advice for aspiring endocrinologists?

Have fun, find a good environment, choose mentors that are supportive, and don’t take yourself too seriously!

You can hear Dr Daniel Drucker’s Medal Lecture “Incretins and Cardiometabolic Disease-An Inflammatory Perspective” on Wednesday 18 November at 15:55 GMT.

If you haven’t already, register for SfE BES Online now!

Featured

Video advice for adrenal insufficiency patients

Kerrie Grounds, Lead Endocrine Specialist Nurse (ESN) at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (RLUH) and her team have produced an educational video for patients with adrenal insufficiency. Here she explains what inspired them to create this invaluable and informative patient resource.

Kerrie Grounds adrenal crisis video image

I work with a team of fabulous, dedicated ESN’s named: Amanda Hamilton, Karen Jones and Michelle Lewin. We have created a short video for all our patients with adrenal insufficiency to access via the internet. This video provides education regarding steroid replacement therapy; sick day rules and demonstrates how to prepare and administer the hydrocortisone emergency injection should this be required in the event of an adrenal crisis. We feel this information is vital for improving quality of life for all patients with adrenal insufficiency and urge you to share the video.

Why did we create the video?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we commenced group education sessions for all our patients with adrenal insufficiency to deliver education regarding their steroid replacement, sick day rules and hydrocortisone emergency injection training. We ensured that at the end of each session everybody received their emergency injection prescription/ancillaries/travel letter/ sharps bin and patient information support pack, including surgical guidelines /steroid treatment card/medic alert identification etc. These sessions have been well received and the feedback has been very positive. It was delivered in a relaxed environment and I think the tea/coffee and biscuits also helped!

Then COVID-19 arrived! A very difficult and scary time for everyone involved and our main aim was to ensure all our adrenal insufficiency patients had access to an emergency injection. We have over 300 patients at present under our ESN team that we review. As we had to suspend our group education sessions, we created a letter for our patients to take to their own GP’s to prescribe the emergency hydrocortisone injection. Primary care played a vital role in ensuring our adrenal insufficiency patients all had access to this injection. We also sent our patient information packs, which we used to provide in our education sessions, to our patients alongside ancillaries (needles and syringes) to enable them to administer their injections, which also covered guidance from the Society for Endocrinology COVID-19 guidelines. We provided our ESN contact details and advised them to access the ADSHG Professor John Wass video regarding their emergency injection training. We tried our very best to ensure our patients received as much information as possible to protect them in the event of an adrenal crisis. We had an administration clerk, Ann Marie Brookes, whom played a vital role in assisting us with this. I will be forever grateful to my team for working together at such a difficult time.

We can honestly say that although Professor John Wass’ emergency injection video was very informative and inspired us, we felt that our patients would receive the video better if they saw familiar faces….who better to deliver this than their own ESN’s. We also wanted to cover steroid replacement during illness. Due to lockdown we were unable to provide face-to-face education sessions and we felt that creating a video was not only the best way, but the safest way forward. Our departmental manager gained funding for us to record the video, we created the script and practised it on our own and then filmed the video, all in one day. Please remember we are nurses and not actors and it was rather nerve racking for us all!

Why am I so passionate about this?

My ESN role is not just an occupation for me. I am passionate about endocrinology and have learned so much in the 8 years I have worked with the Endocrinology team, here at the RLUH. I work with a fabulous team of Endocrine/Diabetes Consultants at the RLUH and as mentioned above Endocrine Specialist Nurses. It still fascinates me every day and there is always room to learn within this role.

However I also have Addison’s disease. I was diagnosed at the age of 18 and have lived with this condition for 22 years now. I have always been a positive person and my glass is always half full. When diagnosed I weighed about six stone and had been unwell at home for three months, fading away. I could not stand up or eat anything, I was nauseous, vomiting, had headaches, the fatigue was so debilitating and it was frustrating for me and family as we did not know what was wrong. However, a positive side to that was I had a fabulous tan!. When I was eventually admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Addison’s disease I remember being so thankful to all the nurses and doctors who had helped me. This was when I realised I wanted to be able to give something back, so I trained to be an adult registered nurse and have never looked back. I can honestly say that when the ESN job post was advertised I thought I knew quite a bit about my Addison’s disease but I knew nothing! This job has literally saved my life. This is why I will always be thankful to my Endocrinology Consultants and fellow ESN’s here at the RLUH for the education and training they provided me, to be able to not only ensure I have a perfectly normal quality of life but to be able to provide specialist advice and empathy for my patients.

I know only too well the symptoms of low cortisol and adrenal crisis and I would say the fatigue is the worst symptom that we have to learn to live with. However, I am a mother to two beautiful boys and a full-time ESN. I have perfectly normal quality of life and feel blessed every day that I am able to manage my Addison’s disease.

Here is our Emergency Injection Steroid Replacement Video on the RLUH website or watch it on YouTube. Please share this widely and help to keep adrenal insufficiency patients safe and informed.

Learn more about Society for Endocrinology guidance on managing adrenal crisis, including a downloadable NHS Emergency Steroid Card.

Learn more about the adrenal glands and related diseases.

Featured

Meet the Endocrinologist: Matthew Simmonds, expert in pancreatic transplant genomics

Meet the Endocrinologist: Meet Dr Matthew Simmonds a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science at the University of Lincoln. His research is focused on the genetics of pancreatic transplant function and he will be presenting at the Early Career session at SfE BES 2018, 19-21 November in Glasgow. In our latest interview, he tells us more about his work and what he is looking forward to at the SfE BES 2018 conference.

Can you tell us a little about your current position and research?

I am a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln where I have been now for just over two years.  My research career has revolved around trying to identify genetic contributors to a series of autoimmune endocrine diseases including autoimmune thyroid disease and type-1 diabetes.  My current research is specifically focused on looking at genetic predictors of long-term pancreas transplant function in people with severe type 1 diabetes.

What inspired you in to this field?

The immune system is amazing and without it we would never have survived and evolved on this earth. What I find so interesting about the autoimmune endocrine diseases is how the immune system, which is meant to protect us, actually starts to attack parts of the body leading to changes in how the endocrine system works.  I am passionate about understanding how disease pathways are triggered/progress and how we can use these insights to inform better treatments for people with these different conditions.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field of research?

I think the major challenge within pancreas transplantation is both the number of donor organs available for transplantation into people with severe type-1 diabetes and trying to ensure that the transplanted organ remains functional throughout the recipient’s life to ensure the benefits these transplants provide, of retuning insulin production and halting/reversing secondary diabetes related complication in that person, remain for as long as possible.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I think both the advances being made in using induced pluripotent stem cells, combined with gene editing, to create new beta cells, will provide unparalleled new opportunities for transplantation purposes. Combined with the decreased costs around genome and other proteomic screening for patients and our increased understanding of how genetic variation impact upon autoimmunity and transplant success this will give us new understanding of disease progression and provide better individual tailoring of therapeutics.

What will you be doing at SfE BES 2018 in Glasgow?

Well as you have asked – nothing like a bit of shameless plugging – I will be doing a talk on the Tuesday as part of the Early Careers session ‘Navigating the Academic Pathway’.  My talk is entitled ‘The lectureship route’ where I will be providing some insights into this career pathway, the challenges and benefits of this route and some tips on how to be get such a position.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s conference?

I think as an early career researcher I loved going to conferences to be able to present my work and network with others working in the field – which is the same reason I enjoy attending conferences to this day. Whilst there are lots of fantastic talks, plenaries and other sessions throughout the conference with something to suit everyone’s research interests, one thing I would suggest to early career researchers is to take time to speak to other early career researchers at the poster sessions and after their talks.  You would be surprised how much you have in common with other researchers and how random conversations at conferences can lead to new collaborations and possibly job offers in the future.

Who do you most admire and why?

 I have been really lucky to have worked with some of the most amazing researchers in diabetes and endocrinology throughout my career so far – both in the centres I have worked and through numerous collaborations. I have been very lucky to have some amazing mentors throughout the years, and think that whatever stage in your career you are at it is important to keep listening, learning and being inspired by researchers at every level.

What words of wisdom do you have for someone starting out in research?

These type of questions always make me feel old.  Joking aside, I think the best advice I can give to any early career researcher is to think about where you want your career to go but don’t be so rigid in your approach that you may miss out on some unexpected opportunities that come your way. Also listen to your gut feeling about career decisions.  Whilst is it perfectly normal to be scared to take on new challenges be it new techniques, moving into different project areas or new jobs, sometimes you instantly know if something is a good or a bad move. From my own experience I have learnt that sometimes saying no to something that is not right for you is as important as the opportunities you say yes to.

You can hear Dr Simmonds presentation, “The lectureship route” on Tuesday 20 November, as part of the Early Career: Navigating the Academic Pathway session at 16:00-17:30. Find out more about the scientific programme for SfE BES 2018.

 

 

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Meet the Endocrinologist: Interview with Prof Antonio Vidal-Puig

Group Photo - June 2017

Meet Professor Antonio Vidal-Puig, endocrinologist and Society for Endocrinology Medal winner for 2017. Prof Vidal-Puig is based at the Institute of Metabolic Sciences, Cambridge University and at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where his outstanding research, focusing on the link between obesity and associated metabolic complications, has earned him this award, to be presented the annual conference, SfE BES 2017, in Harrogate, 6-8 November 2017. Learn more about his endocrine journey in this exclusive interview.

Q: Tell us a little about your career so far and how you ended up in Cambridge.

Originally from Spain, I studied medicine and trained in endocrinology at Valencia Medical School and Granada Medical School. I held post-doctoral positions in Boston at the Massachussetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital/Harvard Medical School from 1992-1999. There I had excellent mentors including Jeff Flier, Brad Lowell, David Moller and Leo Krall. This was a very intense, exciting and uncertain period, at the epicentre of major discoveries in the field of obesity. This was a period that defined my career, scientific focus, approach to science and reinforced my values. I have been developing my career in the UK, since arriving at Cambridge University in 2000, and now have an established laboratory and have become a Professor of Molecular Nutrition and Metabolism.

Q: Tell us more about your research that led to you being awarded the Society Medal

The lab is interested in why obesity results in diabetes, insulin resistance, fatty liver and ischaemic heart disease, in order to find ways of preventing these complications.

The key concept of our programme is lipotoxicity, which links obesity-related metabolic complications with the excessive accumulation of lipids outside adipose tissue, in organs including muscle, liver and heart. From the concept of lipotoxicity we have developed three main research directions:

  • understanding how the adipose tissue works, with the aim of improving its function and ensuring that lipids remain in adipose. This led to the development of our “adipose tissue expandability hypothesis”, which is now widely accepted by the scientific community
  • developing strategies to burn the excess lipids and prevent lipotoxicity through activation of brown fat
  • promoting that the quality of dietary lipids should be as healthy as possible, to prevent toxic effects.

My Medal Lecture at SfE BES 2017 will summarise our contribution to these three directions.

Q: What are you particularly looking forward to at SfE BES 2017?

I will use this conference for updating clinical aspects of my work. The presentation quality is always good and helpful. One session I am really curious about is Workshop 1: Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine in Endocrinology. I think technology is essential to retain a competitive position in research and the topics presented are highly transferable and of interest. I think tissue engineering approaches to increase brown fat mass could be really helpful in preventing obesity and diabetes, I am curious about the concept and possibilities of using 3D bioprinting.

Q: What have been your career highlights so far?

I feel content about my career progression. I consider highlights to be our best pieces of research; our papers tend to be quite comprehensive and we believe they make important contributions. I think for this reason these contributions are well respected by our colleagues. Our reputation as a lab is important for us. Also as a proud introvert, I have not touted our highlights and have not needed to for our professional highlights to be widely acclaimed, however I do understand that it is important to make the public aware of their implications. Also, as a laboratory leader I know that to disseminate these highlights is important for the careers my lab members. In this respect, winning the Society for Endocrinology Medal is a highlight that reflects the quality and commitment of the present and past members of the laboratory.

At a more personal level, I admit I have an aesthetic approach to science. I enjoy understanding and identifying sophisticated mechanisms, developing models that explain reality and learning how biological systems self-regulate. I don’t think this is unusual amongst endocrinologists. Also, becoming a Professor at Cambridge University was a moment of satisfaction I shared with my colleagues and family. In some ways my career has provided me with professional freedom, which is a key value for me, beyond other motivations, such as power or fame, that I have always found energy draining and restrictive of my autonomy.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges in your research area right now?

I think a big challenge in my research area, and others, is how to extract value from the excessive information generated by recent technological advances. Our challenge is how to analyse this information to prioritise the types of mechanistic validation that are necessary for estimating its relevance. Also, it is not only the amount of data, but the amount of unnecessary noise coming from poor quality research that makes this task more difficult.

Q: What are your future plans for your work & career?

As you become more senior in science, you often suffer the disadvantage that your professional horizon is shorter. However, this position also has the advantage that you can be more selective in your choice of projects, with more freedom to take risks. I think my laboratory in this respect is quite entrepreneurial, we are innovating by entering new fields/technologies, which I think is important for remaining competitive.  For example, we have opened a new lab at Sanger, funded by the European Research Council to work on stem cells and adipose tissue. We are also developing two new programmes of research; one in Nanjing focused on murine models of fatty liver, and another in Bangalore focused on adipose tissue stem cell biology to model obesity and diabetes in India. These are exciting challenges that will provide opportunities for my younger associates in their future careers.

Q: Who do you most admire professionally?

I have learned a lot from many of my mentors, colleagues and trainees. In some way these experiences have shaped my values and my strong views about science and leadership. For example, I have always admired the intellectual rigour and scientific honesty of Brad Lowell. I admired the consistency and confident leadership of Jeff Flier and the legacy of Daniel Lane, who developed many academic scientists in his lab to share his cultural values and collegiality, which they now disseminate to the next generations. I find this very impressive.

Q: Any words of wisdom for aspiring endocrinologists out there?

Endocrinology is not a specialty that will make you rich, but it is a specialty where you can fulfill your intellectual scientific needs and enjoy the human aspect of practicing medicine. It is very satisfying because your patients get better and, given that treatments are required long term, an important factor in the success depends on establishing an empathetic relationship with them. You will get to know many of your patients well, from whom you will receive gratitude and a sense of meaning and fulfillment. In this respect it is a very rewarding profession.

Q: What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I think real breakthrough with long term impact requires deep knowledge and new technologies, I have become quite sceptical about quick or easy breakthroughs that address complex problems. It is important to understand how regulatory systems operate, to learn what the adaptive changes of the organism or cell to maintain normality are, and to determine the intrinsic capacity of these systems to recover normality if the early factors of the disease are removed. For this reason, we focus on early disease events, aiming to prevent or reverse excessive damage to the homeostatic system and regain metabolic control. In this sense, we think it is as important to learn how the problem occurs as it is to learn the trigger and why it occurs. In our field I think understanding how lipids mediate disease could be used for prevention, early diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

You can hear Prof Vidal-Puig’s Society for Endocrinology lecture on Wednesday 8 November, 15:45-16:45, and see the full scientific programme for SfE BES 2017.

Meet our 2020 Jubilee Medal winner, Professor Anne White

Anne White is Professor of Endocrine Sciences at the University of Manchester and is our Jubilee Medal winner this year. Her research focuses on POMC peptides and energy balance and she will be presenting her medal lecture at SfE BES Online 2020, on Thursday 19 November. Read this interview ahead of her lecture to find out more about her research and her career in endocrinology.

Tell us about your current research

My research focuses on the processing of the precursor for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), propiomelanocortin (POMC), and the neuropeptide, alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha MSH). For many years, my research has been involved with the diagnosis of ACTH related disorders, in parallel with understanding the role of POMC and alpha MSH in regulation of food intake and energy balance.

Tell us about your career path and what you are most proud of

In my first postdoc position, I developed monoclonal antibodies for the diagnosis of peptide and steroid hormones. This led to an interesting discovery that non-pituitary tumours causing ectopic ACTH syndrome secreted much higher concentrations of ACTH precursors, than ACTH. Having monoclonal antibodies and immunometric assays enabled easier diagnosis of these tumours. It was very difficult for a non-clinical scientist working in a clinical department to carve out a career – this was probably compounded by being a woman with young children! However, perseverance is my middle name and my interest in prohormone processing has underpinned my research in neuropeptide networks in the hypothalamus.

My early studies on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) and Cushing’s syndrome also led to research on abnormalities in the glucocorticoid receptor with David Ray, and subsequently on how chronic glucocorticoid treatment can lead to metabolic syndrome. My career has evolved despite not moving from Manchester for family reasons and I did a Royal Society Industry fellowship as my sabbatical close to home.

I am proud of the fact that I have had a rewarding career combined with a wonderful family life. I am also proud of the people who have worked for me over the years and who have established careers in their own right. I’m also proud of the work we’ve done to help patients and endocrinologists in the UK and abroad.

What inspired you to choose endocrinology as a career?

I didn’t choose endocrinology as a career, it sort of chose me! Having signed up as a post-doc, I became fascinated with the research questions and just couldn’t stop. It is much harder for a non-clinical scientist to gain the background in endocrinology that is needed to make it a career, but I had some very good mentors and the Society conferences were always a fount of information.

 What do you enjoy most about your work?

Solving research problems gives me a great sense of satisfaction. It’s a challenge and a lot of the time things go wrong, but then when you see a result which you recognise is important and you can present it successfully to your peers, it makes all the hard work worthwhile. 

I have also enjoyed working with such intelligent scientists, both those in my group and the numerous collaborators. There is also something worthwhile about doing research that I know will make a difference.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research?

Our labs were closed for a few months but we used the opportunity to write papers and grant applications. My research team has been so resilient and they were determined to get back in the labs as soon as they could.

Please tell us a little more about what you will be presenting during your lecture at SfE BES Online 2020?

I set myself the challenge of explaining what we know about different processing pathways for POMC at the cellular level, but I also wanted to highlight the questions still to be answered. In the pituitary, POMC is processed to ACTH, but in ectopic tumours this processing is disrupted. This results in higher concentrations of POMC than ACTH in the blood, which can be used for differential diagnosis in Cushing’s syndrome. In the hypothalamus, POMC-derived peptides are important in regulating energy balance. However, there are many more steps in the cellular processing of POMC to give the melanocortin peptides. We have learnt a lot from mutations in genes involved in this pathway that result in early onset obesity in children and from mouse models. Despite this, there are complexities in these POMC networks which we don’t yet understand. Addressing these issues will be important in understanding imbalances which drive obesity and metabolic syndrome.

What do you think about the move to virtual meetings?

Moving to virtual conferences will drive a change in the way we communicate, which could be beneficial in the long-term for scientific research. It has made it so easy to listen to a talk from someone in another part of the world. However there is no doubt that, as researchers, we gain a lot from the casual conversations at a conference. The loss of this is a big disadvantage.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field?

We are living in very challenging times and it’s hard to predict the effect of COVID-19 on future research. It is probable that funding will be hit badly and therefore we will lose a lot of momentum. A separate challenge is trying to protect the experienced post docs and research fellows. Even without COVID-19, I would have said one of the biggest challenges is to safeguard the huge knowledge base and skill set of this group of people who have difficult career paths with a lack of secure contracts.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

In most cases we see incremental increases in knowledge and when different findings are synthesised, we get a greater understanding. So I think major breakthroughs are only seen in retrospect. This requires endocrinologists with different skillsets building the knowledge base. The history of scientific research has taught us that discoveries often come from unlikely sources and we need to be open minded, both to support diverse research and to recognise the nature of the discovery.

Any words of advice for aspiring endocrinologists?

Identify someone you respect and ask them if they will mentor you. You need different mentors at different stages in your career, so be prepared to change mentor. I would also suggest that you find other researchers to collaborate with as they will bring a different perspective to your ideas and may have the same research interests/obsessions, so will carry on talking with you when others are bored! This could also lead to new friendships and new opportunities. My final piece of advice would be that you should be prepared to challenge your colleagues, although this should be in a gentle enquiring way to be most effective!

You can hear Professor Anne White’s Medal Lecture “POMC peptides: master regulators of the stress axis and neuroendocrine pathways in energy balance” on Thursday 19 November at 13:05 GMT. If you haven’t already, register for SfE BES Online now!

Celebrating International Open Access Week

Dalia Nikadon is currently Acting Publisher of Endocrine Connections, an open access journal jointly owned by the Society for Endocrinology and the European Society of Endocrinology (ESE). To celebrate International Open Access Week on 19-25 October this year, Dalia has written this guest post to let Society for Endocrinology members know a bit more about open access publishing, including its benefits and costs.

The open access model makes published articles available to all readers at no cost, as opposed to the traditional subscription model in which readers have access to published papers via institutional (or sometimes personal) subscriptions. This means that once an open access article is published, anyone in the world can access it with no restrictions, including the general public. There is ongoing debate surrounding the risks of open access publishing, for example members of the public accessing research proposing controversial treatment options, and the possible rise in predatory journals. However, most academics and clinicians would agree that the vision of open access is altruistic and positive, even with the possible obstacles in this model’s implementation.

Open knowledge

While many researchers and clinicians will have access to most relevant research via their institutions, nearly all researchers will have come across articles they cannot get access to, at least not without paying a one-off charge or obtaining the article via illegitimate means.

This demonstrates the main issue with the traditional publishing model – it is only accessible to members of certain institutions, or those who can afford (or want) to pay $30-50 for individual articles. This means that members of less well-funded institutions, those not associated with any institution, and readers from developing countries, are unable to access work which may be crucial to their own research or clinical practice.

This year’s International Open Access Week’s theme is “to be Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. Although this year has been especially significant in highlighting inequality and injustice, as well as the need for crucial scientific research to be accessible to everyone, it is no coincidence the theme has been about equity and inclusion for the third year running. Equity and inclusion are the fundamental goals of open access publishing, not happy by-products.

Author owns their work and copyright

If you regularly publish papers, you may have come across the need to acquire permission (and pay a small fee) for figures or content reuse from publications where the copyright is assigned to the publisher. With open access publishing, authors often retain the full copyright for their published work, and other researchers wishing to reuse the work simply need to reference the original paper. Depending on which publishing license the author chooses, researchers can distribute and change the information however they want to – the most commonly used license is CC-BY and allows unlimited distribution and amendments. Some licenses are more restrictive, such as the CC-BY-NC license, which allows change and distribution of work, as long as it is non-commercial. The most restrictive – CC-BY-NC-ND – allows researchers to share your work only non-commercially and without changing it in any way.

Compliance

Europe, and especially the UK, is leading in the push towards open access research. Funders like the Wellcome Trust, Charity Open Access Fund, and UK Research Councils require all work funded by them to be published open access. Plan S is an initiative by 12 European funding bodies to ensure that all publicly-funded scientific research be made immediately open access. In the future, it is likely more funders will require open access publishing from researchers funded by them.

Cost

Unlike many subscription journals, open access publication comes with author-side publication charges. In line with the theme of this year’s Open Access Week, it is important to acknowledge that, while many institutions will provide funding for these extra costs, many less well-funded institutions, including institutions from developing countries, may be unable to provide this. One way in which publishers are trying to help is with Read and Publish deals, where institutions paying subscription costs include open access publishing fees for journals belonging to the same publisher. Additionally, Bioscientifica, the publisher for the Society for Endocrinology, waives all open access fees for authors from countries on Group A of the WHO HINARI list, and gives 50% discount to authors from Group B.

Society-owned open access

Bioscientifica is owned by the Society for Endocrinology and its profits from institutional subscriptions and open access publication charges go back to the Society and its members, via training, grants, and public outreach. Some of its profits also go to the Bioscientifica Trust, a charity which helps fund early-career scientists and clinicians. Big commercial publishers often report large profit margins, with small fractions going back to the scientific community.

The Society organises regular scientific talks from Society members for both Bioscientifica and Society staff, to show what research Bioscientifica’s profits help to fund. From personal experience, these talks are very meaningful and rewarding – not just the additional insight into the scientific aspect, but knowing that the profit we play a part in generating has an ultimately positive impact on the Society and the public.

My undergraduate degree was in biochemistry and I have found it greatly fulfilling to be able to contribute to the scientific community as Acting Publisher of Endocrine Connections. Endocrine Connections is jointly owned by the Society and ESE – Society members get a 40% discount on article publication charges. Bioscientifica also publishes OA journals on behalf of other societies, including the recently launched Reproduction and Fertility (RAF), owned by the Society of Reproduction and Fertility. All article publication charges are waived for RAF during its launch years, as well as for our other recently launched journal Vascular Biology. Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Case Reports is endorsed by 12 societies – members of these societies get a 25% discount on publication charges.

Visit the Society’s publications page for more information on its journals and visit Bioscientifica’s publishing section to find out more about its journal portfolio.

Further information on open access:

An introduction to open access

Open access in research: catch up on the debate

Podcast: The Benefits of Open Access

Podcast: The Future of Open Access: What’s the Plan (S)?

Podcast: Could open access have unintended consequences?

Meet Professor David Ray, 2020 Society for Endocrinology Medal Winner

Professor David Ray, from the University of Oxford, is the 2020 winner of our Society for Endocrinology Medal. His research focuses on circadian rhythms, nuclear receptors and metabolism, and he will be giving his Medal Lecture during SfE BES Online 2020 on Friday 20 November. Read this interview to find out more about his research ahead of the conference.

Tell us about your current position and research

I have been interested in nuclear receptors in health and disease since working on my PhD in the early 90s. As all endocrinologists learn about the importance of time of day in understanding endocrine gland function, it seemed natural to take an interest in the circadian clock. Indeed, one of my early attempts to do research came in Liverpool when studying circadian function in chronic fatigue syndrome. As I established my research group in Manchester, I started working with Andrew Loudon, one of the major players in circadian and circannual timing mechanisms. At the same time, the role of my favourite receptor, the glucocorticoid receptor, in the regulation of the circadian clock was becoming clear, so we wanted to focus our research on this. In 1998, I moved to University of Oxford as Professor of Endocrinology, where I am continuing to develop these research themes, as well as building on new opportunities to do more work with patients and volunteers.

Can you tell us about your career path and what you enjoy most about your work?

I trained in medicine in Manchester, and then in endocrinology in the North West of England. I did my PhD in Manchester, and post doc at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

I hugely enjoy discovering new things and talking about latest findings from the lab, trying to figure out what they mean and publishing the findings. I think the discussions with my research group and the interactions with other colleagues in the field are the best parts of my professional life. I take great pride in working with some of the amazing, bright, committed young scientists who join the group to make their own discoveries. I love seeing them develop, and surprise me!

What inspired you to choose endocrinology as a career?

I was drawn to endocrinology when I worked with David Anderson in Salford as an SHO. It seemed brimming with excitement, new discoveries, and powerful approaches to improve the lives of patients.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research?

It’s been hard, but my group has been amazing. We have switched a lot of effort to computational analysis and to entirely in silico projects, in order to maintain research momentum.  We have also taken the chance to complete writing up a number of papers!

What you will be presenting during your lecture at SfE BES online 2020?

So, I don’t want to spoil the main event! I will discuss the state of the art in circadian biology and will present new work from our group, showing how the circadian clock and its output pathways regulate inflammation and energy metabolism. We have two new projects to show, one centred on the macrophage, and other on the liver.

What do you think about the move to virtual meetings?

Well, we have to do something to maintain momentum and to keep us all connected. Science is not a solitary pursuit. Virtual meetings have the advantage that they are cheap to attend and there is no barrier to colleagues with caring responsibilities. However, I do miss the chance to talk through the latest science with colleagues face to face.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your field?

I think we face a major challenge maintaining the scientific infrastructure and funding for truly international science. We have made huge progress and the tools now at our disposal are awesome, but I think we as a community and the country face tough choices about our next steps. I don’t see that debate happening, but we are all aware that decisions are being made which will impact on how we can function in the future.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I think the effective translation of the amazing science relating to the circadian clock, its components, and role in physiology to benefit human populations is lagging. I think clock-acting compounds in the clinic and embedding clock logic in healthcare will be transformative.

Any words of advice for aspiring endocrinologists?

Do it!

You can hear Professor David Ray’s Medal Lecture “Circadian control of inflammation and metabolism” on Friday 20 November at 15:50 GMT+1. If you haven’t already, register for SfE BES Online now!

Meet Specialist Registrar in Diabetes and Endocrinology, Dr Shazia Hussain

Dr Hussain is a specialist registrar in endocrinology and diabetes on the North East London Rotation and is currently working at the Royal London Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust. Her passions are clinical endocrinology and diabetes, as well as medical education and training. Within the Society for Endocrinology, she is a member of the Early Career Steering Group, an SpR member of the Clinical Committee, a Leadership and Development Awards Programme Awardee and has recently joined the ‘Future of Endocrinology’ working group

Can you tell us about your current position?

I am a final year specialist registrar working in a busy east London teaching hospital. My day-to-day job involves a diverse mix of inpatient and outpatient work where I get to meet patients with acute and chronic endocrine and diabetes related conditions. I also partake in a full-time general medical on-call rota. The diversity in my current position means there are unlimited opportunities for me to learn from and share experiences with colleagues which I find immensely fulfilling.

What inspired you to specialise in endocrinology?

I have always enjoyed problem-solving medicine and so I guess it’s no surprise that I have ended up pursuing a career in endocrinology – an intellectually stimulating field that is the perfect balance of specialist and general medicine. However, my decision to specialise in endocrinology was made after working with some highly inspirational and encouraging endocrinologists whose enthusiasm and passion for their work was contagious! I was fascinated by the patient mix in the inpatient and outpatient setting and the detail with which their symptoms and results were dissected to make a diagnosis and ensure the delivery of holistic care. I feel extremely fortunate to have been exposed to specialist endocrinology and be inspired at such a crucial stage in my training and hope I can have the same impact on my junior colleagues!

Why is endocrinology an exciting field to enter?

Endocrinology is a constantly evolving field of medicine with numerous exciting and diverse opportunities to suit different individuals. Whether you are interested in clinical endocrinology, academia, leadership, education or a combination of these there is something for everyone.

I love the fact that I have been able to shape my training to gain experience in areas wider than clinical endocrinology, which has not only kept me motivated but also allowed me to positively contribute towards patient care in more ways than one. 

Furthermore, endocrinologists work closely with multiple other specialties (radiology, surgery, oncology, paediatrics and obstetrics to name a few), which means you have so much to offer your patients – many of whom you will care for over several years.

What has been a highlight of your training so far?

It’s hard for me to pick one highlight. My clinical training thus far has been an enjoyable mix of district general, teaching and tertiary centre work and allowed me to learn from numerous clinicians and members of the wider multi-disciplinary team. However, I am pleased that I chose not to follow the conventional training pathway and took time out of programme to pursue my passion for medical education, undertake a teaching fellowship and complete a MSc in medical education. I am particularly proud of being the first Endocrinology RCP Chief Registrar at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which gave me excellent insight into NHS leadership and I hope has paved the path for future endocrine trainees who wish to explore this challenging yet rewarding area of medicine.

What are your ambitions for your future career?

I am hoping to complete my training within the next year – though the situation has been slightly less predictable given the COVID-19 pandemic! I am looking forward to taking on my first consultant post and hope to combine my clinical, medical education and leadership skills to deliver high-quality patient care. I’m motivated to attract undifferentiated trainees to pursue a career in endocrinology and also to represent diversity within NHS leadership.

Who do you most admire professionally?

I’ve learnt so much from so many of my colleagues and am hugely grateful for the time and efforts they have put into training me.

In particular, I owe a lot to my incredibly supportive training programme director, Professor Will Drake, whose passion for endocrinology and excellent clinical skills inspired me to become an endocrinologist and who I continue to learn so much from; and Professor Tahseen Chowdhury who has been an amazing mentor and always goes the extra-mile for his patients and trainees.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring endocrinologist out there?

Come and work with us! There’s so much to see and learn in endocrinology and diabetes and the opportunities to shape your training to suit your interests continue to grow. If you’re unsure about whether endocrinology is for you then definitely make contact – speak to your senior colleagues (SpRs, research / clinical fellows or consultants), attend the annual National Taster Day in Endocrinology and Diabetes and/or spend some time in our clinics to see what the job involves. It’s a brilliant speciality which I would highly recommend.

View career profiles of other endocrinologists on our dedicated page.

Meet Diabetes and Endocrinology Consultant, Dr Justyna Witczak

Justyna is a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology and Acute Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales. Her key interests lie in neuroendocrine tumours, thyroid disease, obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2 and inspiring the next generation of endocrine doctors. In 2015, Justyna was awarded the Lewis Thomas Gibbon Jenkins of Britton Ferry Fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians to undergo research into the characterisation of circulating extracellular vesicles in human obesity and is a recent Leadership and Development Awards Programme awardee with the Society for Endocrinology.

Tell us about your current position?

I work as a Consultant in Diabetes & Endocrinology and Acute Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Apart from providing specialist care to patients with diabetes and endocrine conditions, my job plan also involves research and teaching activities. My specialty interests include neuroendocrine tumours, thyroid disease and diabetes mellitus type 2.

As a Committee member of the Young Diabetologist and Endocrinologist Forum (YDEF) Wales, I am also very involved in organising various educational events for junior doctors and SpRs in order to promote diabetes and endocrinology as the specialty of choice for trainees. I was recently elected as the South Wales Representative for the New Consultants Committee at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) with the aim to represent the views and interests of the young consultants’ community within the RCP.

What inspired you to specialise in endocrinology?

Since my medical school rotations, I have always considered diabetes and endocrinology as a very interesting and attractive medical field. During my CMT years, one of my placements was in diabetes and endocrinology and it gave me the practical exposure to the clinical work in this specialty which I really enjoyed. This paired with the encouragement and support from my clinical supervisors at the time helped me to make the decision to apply for the training number and I have never looked back since.

Why is endocrinology an exciting field to enter?

There have been lots of advances in endocrine research in recent years which allows us to understand better some of the endocrine conditions. It has a direct impact on patients’ management with various new therapies being already available and new ones being constantly developed. From the professional point of view, it is a great opportunity to be a part of these changes. Moreover, the endocrine community is quite small, well connected and very friendly both in the UK and Europe which is a wonderful platform for professional and scientific collaborations.

What has been a highlight of your training so far?

The highlight of my training was to have the opportunity to take time out of programme for research. I received a 2 year fellowship award from the Royal College of Physicians of Wales (The Lewis Thomas Gibbon Jenkins of Britton Ferry Fellowship). This enabled me to complete my research project on characterisation of circulating extracellular vesicles in human obesity which led to obtaining the MD degree at Cardiff University. I also had a chance to present my work at various national and international meetings.

Having a chance to work with the “non-clinical” endocrine scientists was a great experience which will hopefully lead to long lasting scientific collaborations in future.

What are your ambitions for your future career?

My long-term career goal is to be a practising NHS Consultant involved in both clinical and research activities. In the next few years I am planning to gain experience as Principal Investigator in various diabetes and endocrinology trials and will possibly be able to establish my own local research group.

Also, I would like to encourage trainees to the world of academia by creating exciting local research opportunities for out of programme research time for our diabetes and endocrinology SpRs, academic IMTs and intercalated students leading to publications and potentially supervise their MD/PhD work as well. 

Lastly, I am intending to focus on advertising diabetes and endocrinology as an attractive career option by organising local taster events and additional training events which hopefully lead to increased numbers of trainee applications and retention. I would like to take on a role of the Specialty Educational Supervisor and perhaps in future as the Diabetes and Endocrinology TPD/STC.

Who do you most admire professionally?

Generally, I admire all the female clinical and non-clinical endocrinologists who manage to find the right work-life balance between their careers and personal life and can still be successful and fulfilled in what they do. I aspire to be one of them.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring endocrinologist out there?

I would encourage everyone who is considering endocrinology as their future specialty to link up with their local endocrine teams in order to get an insight into what the specialty is really like. They should also use the opportunities to attend the taster events and other SfE organised meetings such as the SfE BES conference.

I would suggest they do not get discouraged by the 4-5 years training involving the general medical duties which often is very demanding. Instead they should look at the bigger picture and the exciting career prospects this specialty offers once the training is completed.

View career profiles of other endocrinologists on our dedicated page

A year of advancements and growth: 2019 highlights from the Society for Endocrinology

As we wave goodbye to 2019, the Society for Endocrinology reflects on another great year of achievements and changes that brought together the global endocrine community, to share ideas and advance our discipline. We awarded several grants and supported career development at all stages, launched a new online communication tool, revamped the Society’s annual conference, and continued to promote accurate reporting of science in the media, to name a few! Check out our top 9 highlights of the year below.

1. Our new online communication platform, SfE Connect was launched to enable members to share knowledge and best practice within their specialist fields. Based around the Endocrine Networks, the platform is a simple and convenient way to talk to your Network colleagues, in a professional space, to help find solutions to challenges within your specialty. 

2. Our new Endocrine Network; Endocrine Consequences of Living with and Beyond Cancer, was launched to help advance research and clinical practice in this area. Members can join this Network, by logging to the Members’ Area.

3. This year’s programme for our annual Society for Endocrinology BES conference underwent a face lift, with a stronger focus on each of the endocrine subspecialties and their Endocrine Network communities. Read our conference highlights in The Endocrinologist

4. As part of our aims to engage the public with endocrinology and its impact, we tackled two misleading articles in mainstream media this year. The Times published an inaccurate article that was ultimately retracted – a success! Whilst an irresponsible article in the Guardian was amended, in response to Society concerns. 

5. The Society Press Office generated over 790 press articles on research presented in our journals and at SfE BES during 2019, and our Media Ambassadors answered over 130 journalist queries to help ensure accurate reporting of endocrine-related topics in the media. Find out how you can help improve science reporting by becoming one of our Media Ambassadors.

6. We helped support career development at all stages through awarding Early Career Grants, funding Summer Studentships, supporting Nurse Members to undertake a Masters-level module in Endocrine Nursing; launching our Leadership and Development Awards Programme  and holding a National Endocrinology and Diabetes Taster Day jointly with Young Diabetologists & Endocrinologists, to encourage the next generation to choose endocrinology as their specialty.

7. In response to recent clinical advancements and changes in treatments, we published position statements on the safe treatment of hyperprolactinaemia and on the cancer risks associated with radioactive iodine treatment in patients with hyperthyroidism, to help ensure best practice.

8. We helped organise volunteering opportunities for members at outreach events across the UK, including the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, Swansea Science Festival, and Café Scientifique in Brighton, with guest speaker Giles Yeo. A dedicated event for schools at SfE BES 2019 aimed to inspire over 70 children to choose an endocrinology-related career. Learn about opportunities for you to get more involved with outreach.

9. Content Editors joined the Editorial Board for our public website, You and Your Hormones, to help create new content on hormones and hormone-related conditions and ensure accurate and up-to-date information is available for all.

After looking back on such a successful year with so many achievements, we would like to thank all those who made it possible and worked so hard towards advancing knowledge and research, improving patient care, and engaging the public with endocrinology.

Let’s work together to make 2020 an even greater success! Visit www.endocrinology.org for more information on Society activities and opportunities.

Meet the 2019 Clinical Endocrinology Trust Clinical Science Abstract prize winner

Dr Alessandro Prete from the University of Birmingham is this year’s proud winner of the Clinical Endocrinology Trust Clinical Science Abstract prize and is presenting his latest work at SfE BES 2019. In this interview, Dr Prete shares inspiring words of wisdom for future endocrinologists and tells us about his research on adrenal tumours and the challenges in his field.

Can you tell us about your current position and research?

I am a clinical research fellow working towards a PhD at the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research (IMSR), University of Birmingham. The IMSR is an exciting place to do endocrine and metabolic research, as it is highly multi-disciplinary and collaborative. I also love that it is such an international place, in my group alone there are people from more than 10 countries. In my PhD project, I investigate the mechanisms linking cortisol excess in adrenal tumours to its adverse metabolic consequences, including the use of multi-omics approaches for studying global and steroid metabolism. My project is very multi-disciplinary and I collaborate with metabolomics specialists, computer scientists and human in vivo physiologists.

Please tell us a little about your career path so far, and what you are most proud of?

After completing my training in endocrinology and diabetes in Italy, I successfully obtained EU funding in 2016, which allowed me to join the IMSR at the University of Birmingham. In 2017, I also had a valuable experience as a visiting fellow at the Department of Endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic in the USA. Finally, in 2018 I was awarded a Diabetes UK Sir George Alberti Research Training Fellowship. Obtaining this prestigious funding offered me a unique opportunity to carry out my research and training project for my PhD.

What more specifically are you presenting at your Medal Lecture at SfE BES 2019?

I was delighted to hear that I have been selected as the best clinical abstract at SfE BES 2019! I am excited to present the most recent results of my research into the metabolic consequences of benign adrenal tumours. Adrenal tumours are very common and a relevant proportion of these produce a mild, chronic excess of cortisol that can lead to adverse cardio-metabolic outcomes. I have investigated the 24-hour urinary excretion of adrenal steroids from a large prospective sample of these patients and found that this approach can be used to identify subjects with a higher metabolic risk.

Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to at this year’s conference and you would recommend to others?

I have been an enthusiastic attendee of the SfE BES meetings since I started working in the UK. I particularly enjoy attending basic science sessions because they provide an overview of the cutting-edge research that takes place in the UK and beyond. I also like strolling around posters during the breaks as it is an excellent way to network with other researchers. Finally, I cannot recommend this highly enough to my younger colleagues: please don’t miss the Early Careers Curry and Quiz on Monday night!

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your research area right now?

The detection of benign adrenal tumours associated with mild autonomous cortisol excess (MACE) poses a therapeutic dilemma – should we observe and pursue medical management of the metabolic comorbidities or go for the surgical resection of the tumour? I would love to find out if MACE causes the increased risk in metabolic disease, or metabolic disease is just co-incident with MACE, or metabolic disease causes MACE. Clinically, it is clear that patients with adrenal tumours associated with MACE have a higher rate of diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidaemia.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

Current biochemical testing is often not enough to pinpoint those patients with benign adrenal tumours at higher risk of developing metabolic dysfunction. I think that a multi-omics approach to these patients will offer a much better prognostic stratification that can hopefully be translated to clinical practice. Moreover, these patients are often elderly and with multiple comorbidities that increase their perioperative risk if they go down the surgical route. I expect that, in the near future, randomised clinical trials will clarify whether medical treatment with cortisol-lowering medications can be a valid alternative to surgery in these patients.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Endocrinology has fascinated me since the first years of medical school. It is a vast and extremely intricate world but gratifying at the same time, because of its consequentiality. Everything, even the most complex and paradoxical observations, are based on cause-effect mechanisms and each phenomenon has its own explanation if you are inquisitive enough.

Who do you most admire professionally and why?

Endocrinology and millions of past, present and future patients owe their life to Edward Kendall, who isolated cortisone and thyroxine. He spent Christmas Day in 1914 crystallising thyroid hormones from over 6,000 pounds of pig thyroid glands – frankly, I can’t think of a better example of dedication to medicine and science!

Any words of wisdom for aspiring endocrinologists out there?

Endocrinology is a rewarding and stimulating discipline but, at the same time, research can be daunting. Failures are part of our work – take advantage of them to develop resilience. Be humble but keep an inquisitive mind, and above all… do not take anything for granted!

You can hear Dr Prete’s presentation, Urine steroid metabolome analysis allows for metabolic risk stratification in 1309 prospectively recruited patients with benign adrenal tumours and different degrees of cortisol excess on Tuesday 12 November at 10:15. Find out more about the scientific programme for SfE BES 2019.

Meet the 2019 Society for Endocrinology Dale Medal Winner

Dr Constantine Stratakis, Scientific Director at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) and Society for Endocrinology Dale Medal winner, shares insights into his career and fascinating research on the genetics of pituitary tumours, ahead of his lecture at SfE BES 2019.

Could you tell us about your current position and your research?

I am the Scientific Director of NICHD, one of the 27 Institutes and Centres that form the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. I am privileged to have been the scientific leader there for the last 10 years. As an investigator, I have been running my own laboratory at NICHD, NIH for over 25 years now. My laboratory focuses on identifying the genes or other genetic defects underlying the development of endocrine tumours. We started with the study of pituitary and adrenal tumours associated with endocrine neoplasia syndromes, but gradually expanded to other lesions and cancers, both inherited and sporadic.

Please tell us a little about your career path so far and what you’re most proud of?

I’ve been at the NIH now since 1993. However, I have been in endocrinology research since 1985 and am originally from Greece. Between medical school and my post-doctoral years, I spent some time in Paris, France where many of my collaborators are from.  Over the years, I have been very fortunate to have built a great network of friends, mentors and collaborators, globally.

I’m indeed grateful to my many extraordinary collaborators from all over the world who have been so loyal and good to me – some for over 35 years! I would not have achieved what I have without them.

What more specifically will you be presenting in your Medal Lecture at SfE BES 2019?

In my lecture, I will talk about the genetics of pituitary tumours and how studying rare syndromes, such as Carney complex, Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia types 1 and 4 (MEN 1 and MEN 4), X-linked acrogigantism (X-LAG), and others,  have uncovered important clues on what leads to the formation of both hereditary and sporadic pituitary tumours. I will outline some of our most important published work about the genetics of pituitary tumours and will also present some recent and unpublished data that shed light on new genes and pathways that may predispose a patient to pituitary tumours.

Is there anything you are particularly looking forward to at the conference and would recommend to others?

The SfE BES conference’s convenient size offers more opportunities to see a lot more than you would at larger conferences. I’m looking forward to attending lectures that bridge basic and clinical science, meeting trainees that may be interested in working in my laboratory in the US, consult with collaborators in the UK and elsewhere, and of course, meeting with my old friends and colleagues.

I like the ‘Meet the expert’ sessions and am planning to go to the session ‘Update on DSD genetics’, the symposium ‘New insights into PCOS’, and the oral communications session ‘Neuroendocrinology, pituitary and neoplasia’.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in your research area at the moment?

I think the biggest challenge right now is the handling of large datasets. With today’s tremendous technology, we have the ability to produce massive amounts of data, but the ability to analyse this data is lagging behind. For endocrine trainees and researchers alike, the challenge is receiving proper training in bioinformatics, so that we don’t have to rely on people who may not be trained in the molecular physiology of endocrine tumours. We need to bring bioinformatics to the point where you can analyse these large datasets by combining old knowledge with new knowledge.

What do you think will be the next major breakthrough in your field?

I think artificial intelligence is not that far away and will allow us to incorporate the various “-omics” data into one important piece of information that will be immediately translatable to discoveries. Analysing data from both cell line work with clinical information from patients with tumours will really help with the discovery process.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The biggest joy of doing this type of work is analysing the mysterious, being excited by the discoveries, and coming up with the next questions. Yes, answers are important, but it is the questions and curiosity that excites me more than the answers themselves. I love Einstein’s quote: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed”. And to this day, I have at my office hanging over my desk the poster that Dr J. Aidan Carney gave me (when we started working together back in 1994), with Albert Szent-Gyorgyi’ s saying: “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought”.

Is there anyone you admire most professionally or otherwise?

I consider myself very fortunate to have met and learned from Dr J. Aidan Carney from the Mayo Clinic and admire him for his extraordinary acumen, commitment to academia, and dedication to discovery. He discovered three different diseases, including Carney’s complex, the foundation of my career in genetics. There is now a disease that bears our names: Carney-Stratakis syndrome. Dr Carney taught me what I now enjoy most about my work – the pleasure that comes from discovering something new and exciting within what was previously unknown or ignored, as Albert Szent-Gyorgi said.

Beyond Dr Carney, I have been very fortunate to have met and been inspired by giants in medical genetics like Drs Robert J. Gorlin and Francis Collins. I also had mentors in my early career that were amazing to me, including Prof Menelaos Batrinos, Dr Spiros Pitoulis, Prof Jean-Pierre Luton, Dr Owen M. Rennert, Prof George P. Chrousos, and Dr Carolyn Bondy. It is their teachings and leading by example that guide me today. 

Do you have any words of wisdom to aspiring endocrinologists?

My advice would be to follow your heart and do what you want to do. Don’t be dissuaded by what others say, about the lack of funding or the lack of opportunities. As Nelson Mandela said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done”. Surround yourself with great mentors, friends, collaborators, and eventually, yes, trainees; be nice to all of them because they will be there for you for the rest of your life. And remember that the travel is yours, only yours: success is a travel for which there is no other path than the path you make, very much like what Antonio Machado said: “traveller, there is no path. A path is made by walking (caminante, no hay camino se hace camino al andar).”

You can hear Dr. Stratakis’ plenary Medal Lecture, “From Carney complex to gigantism and Cushing disease: an insight in the genetics of pituitary tumors on Monday 11 November at 18:10. Find out more about the scientific programme for SfE BES 2019.