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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 the Endocrinologists: Rowan Hardy and Louise Hunter

On the countdown to SfE BES 2017 we interviewed Dr Rowan Hardy (left) and Dr Louise Hunter (middle right), both members of the Early Career Steering Group. Dr Hardy is an Arthritis Research UK Career Development Fellow at the University of Birmingham, and his research focuses on the role of steroid metabolism in chronic inflammatory disease. Dr Hunter, MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow at the University of Manchester, specialises on the interaction between the body clock and the action of stress hormones.

In this interview, Rowan and Louise tell us about their careers in endocrinology and reveal their upcoming highlights for this year’s SfE BES conference in Harrogate, 6-8 November.

Q: Would you tell us a bit more about your career so far? How did you become interested in endocrinology?

Rowan: Since my degree I have always had a passion for endocrinology and immunology. In my first post-doctoral position I developed collaborations between leading endocrinologists and rheumatologists at the University of Birmingham. Through these connections I got to combine my interests by studying the role of glucocorticoid metabolism in tissue biopsies from patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Louise: I’ve been interested in stress hormone biology for over ten years, since doing an intercalated BSc in Pharmacology whilst at medical school. Choosing endocrinology as my clinical career was the natural way forward.

Q: How are you getting involved with SfE BES 2017?

R: At this year’s conference I will be contributing to the public engagement event, where I will be speed-networking with local teenagers to promote science and a career in endocrinology. I will also be presenting my research as an oral communication in the Bone, Calcium and Neoplasia session, as well as supporting my PhD student who is also delivering her first presentation at SfE BES.

L: At SfE BES 2017 I will be speaking about clinical academic opportunities in endocrinology, and chairing the Early Career symposium on alternative career pathways for endocrine scientists and clinicians, as well as another session on endocrinology and behaviour.

Q: What brings you to SfE BES 2017? Any particular sessions you are looking forward to?

R: I have attended this event regularly since 2006, when I began my PhD. In all that time, whilst I immensely enjoyed the science, the social and networking opportunities at the conference are always fantastic.  I am really interested in how altered steroid metabolism contributes to inflammatory bone loss, and therefore sessions featuring eminent speakers, such as Jan Tuckermann and Eugene McCloskey, on the actions of glucocorticoid on bone, are of particular interest to me. I would strongly recommend everyone to attend the plenary sessions – these are great opportunities to see the progression of truly innovative research within endocrinology.

L: This is my fifth time at SfE BES, and I would say my favourite elements are the opportunities to be exposed to a great mix of cutting-edge science and clinical talk. I’m especially looking forward to Marian Joëls’ plenary talk on the action of corticosteroids in the brain. As a clinical trainee, I find the ‘How do I…’ sessions particularly useful – they are practical and focus on questions which crop up in routine endocrine practice, rather than rare conditions that trainees may not often encounter. For example, Andrew Toogood’s session back in 2015, on managing men who take anabolic steroids, included useful tips which I’ve found helpful in my practice.

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

R: I wish to combine the expertise I have developed in murine models and working with patient biopsies to develop novel therapeutic approaches for preventing complications, such as muscle wasting and systemic bone loss in chronic inflammatory disease. Within the next three years I intend to apply for a Senior Fellowship.

L: In the long-term, I’m aiming to become a clinician scientist, and I’d like my work to combine nuclear hormone research with clinical endocrinology.

Q: Who do you most admire professionally, and why?

R: I most admire Professor Georg Schett. He is a world-leading rheumatologist, investigating the pathogenesis of cartilage and bone destruction in inflammatory diseases that have shaped much of the field I currently work in.

L: For my intercalated BSc project, I had the opportunity to go to the Netherlands, and spend time with Ron de Kloet’s group in Leiden. My supervisor there, Menno Kruk, was an inspiration. He’d devoted his career to understanding the neurobiology of aggression, and his passion for the field was infectious.

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

R: Understanding how local pre-receptor steroid metabolism contributes to the dysregulation of adaptive immunity and chronic inflammatory disease.

L: In circadian biology, there’s enormous potential for the application of recent research findings to clinical practice. The idea that we could use drugs, vaccines, and other interventions more intelligently, simply by administering them at the right time of day, is very exciting.

Q: Any words of wisdom fot those starting out in your field?

R: Attend SfE BES, take an interest in any of the talks taking place at the conference, and when a speaker really inspires you, take the time to speak with them after their session.

L: Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask for help or advice, even if they hold eminent positions and you’ve never met them before! I’ve found that if you’re keen and have ambition, most people are only too pleased to help.

Both Dr Hardy and Dr Hunter will be presenting at SfE BES 2017, 6-8 November, in Harrogate.  Dr Hardy’s talk ‘Glucocorticoids activation by 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 protects against inflammatory bone loss in a murine model of chronic inflammation’ will take place on Wednesday 8 November, 16.15-16.45. Dr Hunter’s ‘Clinical academic opportunities in Endocrinology’ will be on Monday 6 November, 12.45-13.00.

Find more details about all sessions in the scientific programme, and discover more Early Career activities at SfE BES 2017 on their dedicated event webpage.

Meet the Endocrinologist: Professor Julia Buckingham

Meet Professor Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor and President of Brunel University London and 2017 Society for Endocrinology Jubilee Medal winner. Professor Buckingham’s work focuses on the mechanisms controlling the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. Her outstanding work together with her contribution to the Society, of which she was President from 2009 to 2012, has led to her being awarded this medal, to be presented the annual conference, SfE BES 2017, in Harrogate, 6-8 November 2017. In this interview, Professor Buckingham tells us about her journey in endocrinology.

Q: Can you tell us more about your career path and research interests? 

I developed my passion for endocrinology as an undergraduate student at Sheffield University, where I was inspired by my amazing teachers.  My love for pharmacology, triggered by a short spell in the pharmaceutical industry, came later, before I started my PhD.  Since then I have worked in both endocrinology and pharmacology and have remained firmly wedded to academia. Throughout my career I have combined research and education, and I passionately believe that the two are symbiotic. In fact, I get very cross with people who are ‘too posh to teach’ – we all have a responsibility for the next generation, just as previous generations did for us.  I have had enormous fun over the years working with my research group (and contributing a little bit, I hope!) to our knowledge and understanding of the HPA axis.  I have also been privileged to work with the broader academic community – research funders, publishers, learned societies, particularly the Society for Endocrinology.  Looking back on my career, I think I have probably always been interested in leadership roles, although I didn’t think about it in those terms.  My previous role as Pro-Rector for Education at Imperial College London opened my eyes to the broader issues facing higher education in the UK and internationally, and that led to my current role as Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London.

Q: What specifically are you presenting at your Jubilee Medal Lecture at SfE BES 2017?

At the conference I will be talking about the complex relationship between the host-defence system and the HPA axis. I will specifically focus on the role of a family of receptors, which were first identified as targets for formylated bacterial peptides, and which contribute to the pathological response to infection.

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

The programme is fantastic as always, and it is difficult to choose.  I always try to go to the plenary lectures and I am particularly looking forward to brushing up my knowledge of POMC processing.

However, the most interesting insights you can get at these events often come from talking to people who are presenting posters, so I would urge everyone to spend time doing that.

Finally, I look forward to catching up with old friends and colleagues, of course.

Q: What has been your career highlight so far?

My research team would say it is seeing new data – and they would go to great lengths to wind me up by telling me they’re not sure how an experiment has gone because they haven’t worked the results out yet! But if you ask me, the greatest highlights are always when seeing someone in my team do well and progress to the next stage of their career, and as Vice-Chancellor, seeing the pride and joy of parents from across the globe when their sons and daughters collect their degrees at graduation.

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

I am very focused on my work at Brunel at the moment and I haven’t given much thought as to what comes next.  Theoretically it should be retirement, but I can’t imagine that – when my time at Brunel comes to an end I shall be looking to do something else!

Q: Who do you most admire professionally?

That’s a very difficult question as I have met so many hugely impressive people in different walks of life – it would be unfair to pick one.

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

Follow your passions, keep an open mind and don’t let a hypercritical referee’s report get you down.

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

If I knew the answer to that I would be working on it now!

 

You can attend Professor Buckingham’s lecture, ‘Bacteria, steroids and formyl peptide receptors – more twists to the inflammatory response’, at SfE BES 2017 on Wednesday 8 November, 16.15-16.45. See more details in the scientific programme.

Meet the Endocrinologist: Interview with Prof David Hodson

Meet Professor David Hodson, Society for Endocrinology Starling Medal winner for 2017. Prof Hodson is based at the University of Birmingham, where his work investigates how failure of pancreatic beta cell function contributes to type-2 diabetes. He is particularly interested in using multidisciplinary and innovative approaches to answer these research questions, which 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 Birmingham

I originally trained as a Veterinary Surgeon at the University of Bristol, where I studied for a PhD in reproductive neuroendocrinology. Tempted by warmer climes, I then migrated to the South of France to join Patrice Mollard’s lab at the CNRS Montpellier, France. This was an exciting time when Patrice had just discovered pituitary networks, and I was lucky enough to be involved in some of the seminal work that followed. This period cemented my passion for microscopy and method development. I then took up a post as a Non-Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College London in Guy Rutter’s Section, applying optical approaches to the study of islet biology and generally learning how to survive in academia. I moved to the University of Birmingham 18 months ago through their Birmingham Fellows Scheme, convinced that the availability of world-class imaging/metabolomics and abundance of young talent would help me to push my research to the next level. Now a Professorial Research Fellow, I am tasked with the exciting role of expanding diabetes research, as well as further developing our imaging capability. This despite my initial reservations about the city following the BAFTA award-winning “Peaky Blinders”!

 Q: What more specifically are you presenting at your Medal Lecture at SfE BES 2017?

It is becoming increasingly clear that, rather like society, beta cells are not equal. In fact, a small number of beta cells may be responsible for driving insulin release, as well as proliferation/renewal, similar to how just a few individuals own most of the world’s wealth. Or alternatively, how you are only ever six people away from knowing Kevin Bacon (of “Tremors” or “Footloose” fame). This is a really hot topic that challenges our understanding of how beta cells may fail (or respond to treatment) during type 2 diabetes. Therefore, I’ll talk about the recent questions that have arisen in terms of beta cell diversity, the tools we have developed to try and understand this and how this has changed our viewpoint of beta cell function under normal and diabetic conditions. There will be lots of colour, movies and practically no text.

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

 My first SfE BES conference was last year and I’m a convert! It will be great to see how endocrinology is progressing in the UK and to catch up with colleagues whilst discussing research in a friendly, informal and supportive environment. In particular, I am looking forward to the “Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine in Endocrinology” symposium. This holds promise not only for diabetes treatment, but also for many endocrine disorders. I’m also looking forward to the social programme. I’d be lying if I said that food and alcohol didn’t play an important role in any conference attendance!

Q: What has been your career highlight so far?

To be honest, I’m relatively new to this and the lab has been working across so many disciplines/topics that it’s difficult to pinpoint a particular highlight. I’m very appreciative that I’ve got excellent collaborators and we are just pleased to be involved in any output that falls under the ‘team science’ banner. Having said that, getting to see Wrestlemania 33 at the same time as ENDO 2017 this year in Florida has to be pretty good, right? Does this count as a career highlight?

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

Our biggest challenge remains how to translate our basic findings on beta cell function from the bench to the bedside. We are amassing detailed knowledge regarding the mechanisms underlying insulin secretion, especially in the ‘omics era, but need to strive to harness this for therapeutic potential. On the flip side, lack of understanding about basic mechanisms will hold back progress on all fronts, so we should not make this the only criteria for our research.

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

Honestly, I haven’t really thought that far ahead. I’m content following up the avenues created by current research and just having fun doing what we’re doing. Maybe become a Vice-Chancellor? The pension seems decent.

Q: Who do you most admire professionally?

I have to admit that I most admire my postdocs, students and technicians. The fact that they have chosen to research diabetes with relatively little reward and in tough academic times really speaks volumes about their motivation and personalities. They do it because they love to do it. I am lucky to have such good people.

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

Endocrinology is bound by shared mechanisms and concepts. Therefore, as a basic or clinical researcher, don’t be afraid to apply thinking from one field to another field, as well as take risks with the research. The outcome and impact can be quite dramatic compared to the high-throughput, predictable science that the funding climate seems to encourage. If someone asks you what is the point of doing this, then it’s generally a positive thing!

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

There is a realisation that current drugs are difficult to improve upon. Certainly, pharma pipelines, profits and innovation are all shrinking as the list of FDA requirements rightly grows (e.g. concerning cardiovascular safety margins). Therefore, directed or personalised treatment may represent the next breakthrough in the field, for example through production of unimolecular agonists where a few licensed drugs are ‘bolted’ together or matching patient genotype to drug efficacy.

You can hear Prof Hodson’s Society for Endocrinology Starling Medal lecture, “Next generation tools to understand endocrine function in health and disease” on Monday 6 November, 18:00-18:30, and see the full scientific programme for SfE BES 2017.

 

Meet the Endocrinologists: Miriam Asia & Andrea Mason

Miriam Asia (right) and Andrea Mason (left), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) in endocrinology at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) tell us about their work in endocrine nursing and what they are looking forward to at SfE BES 2017, 6-8 November in Harrogate.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and where you work

Miriam: As an endocrine specialist nurse, I run the adrenal nurse-led clinic, post-traumatic brain injury endocrine screening clinic and support the young adult clinic. I have also completed the Non-Medical Prescribing course at Masters Level and I am planning to start a masters in endocrinology.

Andrea: I currently look after three nurse-led clinics; late effects of cancer treatment (transition clinic from children’s to adult services), pituitary and a new clinic that monitors patients who have developed immune-related adverse events in response to immune check-point inhibitor treatment. I have a particular interest in the quality of life issues surrounding endocrine conditions.

 Q: What inspired you to work in endocrinology?

Miriam: I only knew about endocrinology through nursing textbooks but now, being able to see endocrine patients, reviewing them in clinic and working with them through their endocrine journey makes me realise even more how fascinating and exciting endocrinology is. Especially when I see the difference it makes to our patients during and following treatment.

Andrea: During my nurse training I developed a keen interest in cancer nursing and worked in oncology for many years until an opportunity for me to branch out into endocrinology as a Clinical Nurse Specialist arose. This position was to cover maternity leave and I knew little about endocrinology, so I had to learn on the job quickly! During my first week, I attended the Society’s Endocrine Nurse Update and was totally blown away by the specialty. The journey had started; I spent evenings studying after work trying to get to grips with the basics.

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

Miriam: As well as the plenaries and nurses’ sessions, I am also looking forward to the ‘Meet the Expert’ and ‘How Do I…’ sessions, especially those relevant to my clinical practice.

Andrea: This is my second SfE BES and I am looking forward to the nurses’ sessions, particularly those on opiate-induced endocrinopathy, and development of endocrinopathy following metastatic melanoma treatment. I also enjoy meeting and networking with other endocrine nurses.

Q: What are your career highlights so far?

Miriam: I recently completed a sky dive (see photo right), with some of my CNS colleagues, in support of our QEHB charity for the Young Adult Clinic!

Andrea: Highlights in my nursing career, include working as an Endocrine Nurse Specialist and successfully completing the Non-Medical Prescribing course at Masters Level.

Q: Who do you most admire professionally and why?

Miriam: My endocrine colleagues – nurses and doctors – at QEHB who work with such competence and dedication to look after our endocrine patients

Andrea: I have had an inspiring and passionate Endocrine Lead Nurse to guide me throughout the last five years and support my development. I have also had the support and patience from a caring team of endocrinologists.

Q: What advice would you give to someone starting out in endocrine nursing?

Miriam: Although endocrine nursing is a challenging specialist role that requires a lot of reading and studying, it is rewarding in the end.

Andrea: It does take time to understand the speciality and additional studying is required but when you understand the basics of the endocrine system, it is all very logical. I would say to any nurse…. go for it!

Q: What are your future career aspirations?

Miriam: To complete my masters in endocrinology and become more confident and competent in dealing with complex endocrine cases as a result. I also hope to see more nurse consultants and nurse led clinics being set up.

Andrea: My future plans are to remain in my current position and I am looking to complete a master’s degree in endocrinology.

Don’t miss the dedicated Nurses’ Lounge at SfE BES 2017, giving nurses the opportunity to meet and network in their own space. This is especially beneficial when you are travelling on your own, or if you are a first-time attendee, as there is nearly always somebody there to chat to. At designated break times there is at least one member of the Nurse Committee on hand for you to get to know.

Follow the links to find out more about SfE BES 2017, view the scientific program and register online.

Meet the Endocrinologist: Interview with Prof Simon Pearce

Meet Simon Pearce, Professor of Endocrinology at Newcastle University and Programme Secretary for SfE BES 2017, in Harrogate, 6-8 November. We caught up with him to find out more about his work and to discover his upcoming highlights and top tips for the conference.

 Q: Tell us a little about your career path and endocrine interests

I qualified in medicine at the Newcastle University, completed my postgraduate education at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in Hammersmith, Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and as a Lecturer in Newcastle. I was appointed Senior Lecturer in Endocrinology in 2001 at Newcastle University and became Professor in 2007.

My main research area is the treatment for autoimmune thyroid diseases and Addison’s disease. I have published around 150 papers over the last 20 years spanning molecular endocrinology, clinical trials and guideline papers.

Q: Tell us a little about your role as SfE Programme Secretary

As Programme Secretary I organise the scientific programme for the annual conference. It’s a great privilege to be able to choose the speakers that I want to learn from. My assumption is that if I am interested in the topic, then it will interest others too.

2016 was my first year as programme secretary and the informal feedback about the quality of the symposia and meet the expert sessions as the meeting progressed was great. I was very happy on the last day when it was all over though, with no significant hitches.

Q: What do you think are the programme highlights at SfE BES 2017?

There is a very strong programme on several subjects including calcium and bone, thyroid, and female reproductive endocrinology. Following the success of last year’s thyroid masterclass, we have scheduled a bone masterclass with two internationally respected experts on osteoporosis, a clinical management symposium on hyper- and hypo-calcaemia and a session on steroids and bone.

The meet the expert sessions on opiate-induced hypopituitarism, hyperthyroidism in pregnancy and next-generation DNA sequencing promise to keep you up to date on the latest advances in these important and fast-moving areas.

We also welcome more than 20 overseas speakers, including cutting edge plenary lectures from some giants in our field, Teresa Woodruff, Andrew Arnold and Martin Schlumberger. Home-grown highlights will also include two well-known members of our Society, Andrew Hattersley and Julia Buckingham, who never fail to both entertain and inform.

Q: What are you particularly looking forward to?

I always enjoy the plenary lectures, and Andrew Hattersley has been an inspirational role model for me; translating the highest quality laboratory science to change clinical practice and improve patient outcomes. So I think his talk will be a highlight.

Q: Do you have some words of wisdom for anyone attending SfE BES for the first time?

Have a good look at the programme at a glance page and plan your most interesting sessions carefully. I receive  frequent comments that there is too much going on at the same time during the meeting and people would like to split themselves in two. My advice is go to the session that you know least about, as you stand to learn the most from this, even if it feels slightly outside your normal ‘comfort zone’.

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

It’s clear that there is a lot of pharma work on small molecules that target several receptors at the same time to modulate appetite and metabolic phenotypes. I am also excited that during the next 10 years we may see new treatments for hyperthyroidism; the first advance since the early 1950s.

Follow the links to find out more about SfE BES 2017, view the scientific program and register online.

Boost your confidence, collaborate and travel

The Society understands that opportunities to present your work, hear from and network with leaders in your field are invaluable for career development. But how do you find the means to attend those extremely-relevant-to-your-career conferences?

Society Travel Grants are available to fund worldwide conference travel, to help you get your work recognised on the world stage. Two previous awardees, Emma Batchen and Julie McNairn, tell us where these grants took them and how they could improve your career prospects.

  1. What do you do, and what are your areas of interest in endocrinology?
    • Emma Batchen: I’m a final year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and my research focuses on understanding the effect of antenatal glucocorticoid treatment in the maturation of the foetal heart. I want to find out the benefits of this treatment in mothers at risk of pre-term birth.
    • Julie McNairn: I am also a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and about to submit my thesis! My work – a combination of disciplines from my previous MSc, neuroscience and cardiovascular biology – investigated neuroendocrine control of salt appetite and blood pressure.
  1. How many Society Travel Grants have you received and where did they take you?
    • Emma: I have received three travel grants – two to attend SfE BES conferences in Edinburgh and Brighton, and one to go to the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology 2016 meeting in Florence. The SfE BES conferences were ideal to get exposure to the many aspects of endocrinology, whereas the event in Florence allowed me to concentrate on the centre of my research, the heart.
    • Julie: I have received one travel grant, which I used to attend the Federation of European Neuroscience conference, FENS 2016, in Copenhagen. My work spans multiple disciplines and major conference, such as this one, allow me to present all aspects of my work and to receive input from many different angles.
  1. What did you get out the experience?
    • Emma: Presenting my work at large events has made me a more confident person. I met potential employers and collaborators in my research field, made new friends and visited places of the world I had never been to before.
    • Julie: The grant enabled me to gauge the interest of the scientific community and exchange ideas and concepts of how my work may benefit from different research directions. It also helped me build on my public speaking and public engagement skills – I spoke to a large number of European scientists about my findings and pitfalls, which helped me to see what the most engaging aspects of my work were. FENS offered amazing talks, the highlights of which were the superb presidential lectures, led by speakers with an unrivalled passion for their research.
  1. Would you apply again? If so, where are you planning to go?
    • Emma: Absolutely! I am applying to attend the next SfE BES in Harrogate.
    • Julie: I will definitely apply for another grant as soon as my thesis write-up is finished. All future plans are on hold until then!
  1. Would you recommend the grant to others?
    • Emma: Yes, because it’s a fantastic experience both personally and professionally, and you get to visit different places around the world. It’s a win-win situation!
    • Julie: Yes, it was easy to apply and I was awarded £600 to attend FENS, I would not have been able to afford the conference otherwise. Thanks to the grant, I got to talk to many other scientists about their work, which helped me appreciate the plethora of amazing research that I otherwise would have never known about.
  1. Is there anything else you would like to add?
    • Emma: These grants have definitely allowed me to grow as a PhD student and set me up for a career in research, for which I am extremely grateful to the Society.
    • Julie: The grants also give you the chance to explore new destinations. Copenhagen is a stunning city and I was fortunate enough to be able to extend my trip for a couple of days after the conference to experience some of the sights.

If your abstract has been accepted for SfE BES 2017, apply for a Travel Grant before 15 August 2017 to help cover your registration, travel and accommodation costs for the upcoming annual meeting of your Society!

Want to travel somewhere else too? Don’t fret – there are two more deadlines in December 2017 and March 2018 to attend other conferences. Members are entitled to two travel grants per year, subject to eligibility criteria.

Learn, network, influence change

The best way to predict the future is to create it” Anne Marland, Advance Nurse Practitioner.

Committees have an integral role in guiding the Society – they aim to ensure that members’ interests are served in the best possible way, within the Society and beyond. Dedicated endocrinologists from different career stages and disciplines serve on these Committees, but what drives them to volunteer their valuable time?

Sherwin

Sherwin Criseno, of the Nurse Committee, considered it a matter of career progression. “Being part of a nurse expert group opens up opportunities to exchange knowledge in endocrinology”, he says. ”It also provides a platform for networking among endocrine nurses and endocrine centres, and gives you a chance to contribute in developing educational frameworks and programmes for the nurse community.”

Jeremy

Clinical Committee member, Jeremy Tomlinson, was driven to join a committee by a desire to become more involved with the Society. ”I wanted to highlight specific aspects of patient care, and work together with other endocrinologists to make a difference,” says Jeremy.

Channa

Channa Jayasena, from the Public Engagement Committee, wanted to develop his career whilst playing an active, relevant role in the Society too. ”Committee participation enabled me to establish relationships with scientists and clinicians from endocrine units across the UK, and I got to be involved in the redesign of You and Your Hormones*, the public engagement website.” *New website launching soon

Anne

 

Anne Marland joined the Nurse Committee to challenge herself and become a future-shaping, vision-creating voice for the endocrine nurse community. ”The best way to predict the future is to create it, and being part of a committee offers plenty of exposure and leadership opportunities”, Anne states. ”My favourite part of the experience has been receiving so much peer support, which has been very motivational.”

 

Why do these Committee members think you should get involved?

  • “To share your expertise, offer new perspectives and ideas, and to influence change, as this is vital in every dynamic organisation. It’s an opportunity every nurse should work and aspire for.” Sherwin Criseno
  • “To work towards implementing initiatives that can improve patient care.” Jeremy Tomlinson
  • “To be the voice of your peers and to contribute to the growth of the Society – which means a success for its members and for endocrinology.” Anne Marland
  • “To help promote endocrinology sensibly and responsibly, for example when dealing with the media.” Channa Jayasena

It is now time to submit your nominations – whether this is to put your own name forward, or that of another clinician, nurse, or scientist member, you have until 30 June 2017 to make a difference for your fellow endocrinologists by shaping the future of the Society.

 

Wondering whether there is a place for you?

There is definitely a committee for you, regardless of your previous experience and professional trajectory within endocrinology. Currently, the Society has openings on five of its committees – Clinical, Nurse, Programme, Public Engagement and Science – as well as in the Early-Career steering group and the Corporate Liaison Board sub-committee.

If you want even more insight on the value of being part of a committee, members Stephanie Baldeweg, Kim Jonas and Kate Lines told us about their committee journeys in the spring issue of The Endocrinologist.

Learning new techniques and expanding horizons in South Africa

The Society of Endocrinology is eager to help you drive your career forward and, in line with this, the Practical Skills Grant is an opportunity not to be missed. This grant enables scientists in training to visit other labs to learn new techniques, so that they can return home with an improved skill-set and plenty of research collaboration potential!

Here is the story of Dr Naomi Brooks, Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling, who is interested in exercise physiology, muscle biology and nutrition. In 2015, she was one of the Practical Skills Awardees and travelled to South Africa to learn a challenging lab technique from world-leading experts…

Naomi Brooks blog
Dr Naomi Brooks, Senior Lecturer at Stirling University

“My application to the Society for Endocrinology Practical Skills grant was inspired by my previous success in winning a Society Early Career Grant. I chose Prof Kathy Myburgh’s lab, in the Physiological Sciences Muscle Group in Stellenbosch University, South Africa. I was aware that the particular technique I wished to learn was difficult and that the Myburgh Laboratory had detailed knowledge and success with it. I had previously worked with the Myburgh group as a post-doctoral fellow. Since I knew the group and identified the potential for collaboration, the choice to return to Stellenbosch was key for my career at that stage.

Stellenbosch is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains and vineyards. I was there during the spring and the weather was kind, not too hot, which allowed me to walk to work every day from my local accommodation. During my work week I would spend time in the lab, either with colleagues or writing and reflecting by myself. When away from the busyness of academia, I visited local areas and enjoyed the beautiful African outdoors and hospitality, and I still had time to write papers and put ideas together for grant applications!

The Practical Skills Grant enabled me to investigate a number of different methods for stem cell isolation and primary cell growth. I was able to see the technique demonstrated, trouble-shoot and have discussions about the procedure and its applications. As a result of this, the cell culture laboratory at my home institution is currently considering building collaborations with molecular investigators to apply the technique in our labs. I continue to build my personal and laboratory group skill-set to enhance our work, and thanks to this grant I was able to improve my academic opportunities as a researcher able to integrate both applied and basic research. The experience provided me with an integrated understanding of the technique, which will hopefully translate into more research opportunities and encourage my transition into an established researcher in the field.

When I lived in Stellenbosch as a post-doctoral fellow, I volunteered at an orphanage in Kayamandi, the local township.  I also started a community exercise programme, which was both a research and a community engagement and development programme. Returning to these places was very special. The exercise programme was still running 5 years later, and was coordinated by those working in the community garden project.

Creating and fostering networks and collaborations, both within the UK and overseas, is very important in the world of academia.  I would encourage those wishing to expand their horizons and learn new techniques to apply for the Practical Skills grant; especially amongst those early career researchers, as having “many strings to one’s bow” is important to establish a career.”  Naomi Brooks, Senior Lecturer at the University of Stirling.

What would you do with a Practical Skills Grant? Applications close on 31 October 2017, so better start thinking about it!