American Society For Nutrition

Interview with Dr. Catherine Field

Interview with Dr. Catherine Field

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
A Conversation With ASN Secretary Dr. Catherine Field

The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) has been proud to provide a professional home for the nation's foremost nutrition experts for many years, but the organization also works hard to provide the same benefits for its colleagues worldwide.  We are currently expanding partnerships with nutrition societies in Asia and Europe, and a fast-growing portion of our members come from outside of the United States.

One such long-time international member is newly elected ASN Secretary Dr. Catherine Field of the University of Alberta.  There, Dr. Field serves as a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science.  Her current research interests focus on the effect of nutrition on the immune system.  She recently spoke about her experience as an international member of ASN and her plans as the organization's new secretary.

Interviewer: What originally caught your interest about the nutrition field? What motivated you to choose a career in nutrition?

Dr. Field: I was always interested in nutrition; it is something that runs in my family.  My brother is a chef, so I suppose he came to nutrition from a different perspective.  I had an aptitude for science from the time I was in high school, but I was not initially very familiar with the nutrition field.  However, as I advanced my studies in the sciences, I discovered nutrition as one of the applications of what I was learning, and I have been fascinated with it ever since.

Interviewer: Where in this journey did you discover ASN, and what factors convinced you to join?

Dr. Field: I first became aware of ASN as a graduate student. The first ASN Experimental Biology (EB) meeting I went to I actually won the student competition that year, so I think it's safe to say that “hooked” me. I also remember feeling amazed by the sheer size and number of participants at EB. At the time, I had been to a few meetings but never one that large. Being a Canadian, our nutrition society was very small, and all the experts in the Canadian nutrition societies also belonged to ASN.  Nutrition disciplines are often very specialized, so ASN offers an important opportunity to connect with people in your particular field because of its size and its reputation as one of the world's leading nutrition societies.  Every faculty member that I interacted with went to Experimental Biology; it was a sort of “pilgrimage” from our university, so I saw ASN as the best way to communicate with people in my discipline.

Interviewer: What aspects of ASN membership have you found most useful for your professional development?

Dr. Field: In addition to the networking and communication opportunities, I think the most helpful part of ASN membership is its journals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The Journal of Nutrition, and Advances in Nutrition are widely acknowledged as the top journals in the field.  I've always tried to put my best research in those journals and to present at the meetings.

Interviewer: Tell us a bit about your experience as the new Secretary of ASN's Board of Directors. What organizational initiatives or goals are you looking forward to pursuing?

Dr. Field: As secretary, one of my biggest goals is to expand membership.  For that reason, I also sit on the membership committee. Being an international member, I'm very invested in our mandate to push for more global membership. There has already been quite a bit of work by our president to develop a partnership with the Korean Nutrition Society and to launch initiatives in China.  We are also very interested in growing our membership in Europe, particularly because a number of Europeans regularly attend Experimental Biology.  We are very interested in reaching out to them and to help them see the society as a professional home.

Interviewer: How would you encourage ASN members interested in pursuing similar leadership opportunities, and how can ASN members in general get more involved in the organization?

Dr. Field: I would encourage them not to be intimidated; they can “get their feet in the water” by getting involved in a Research Interest Section and then a committee.  If they choose to do so, they'll likely start with a face-to-face meeting at Experimental Biology or with conference calls, which is a really nice way to get to know people and determine if you want to contribute in a larger way.

For members who may not be ready for a leadership role, I would still encourage them to get involved in organizing some of the conferences or symposia at Experimental Biology.  They could also write a review article for Advances in Nutrition. I am on the review board and can tell you we're always looking for expert members to write reviews that can contribute to our educational materials. On that note, our past president Dr. Sharon Donovan is working on setting up a new education initiative for our student members, and she is looking for volunteers who are interested in teaching and providing innovative information to undergraduates and graduates.

Interviewer: What would you say to international nutrition professionals who are considering becoming members of ASN?

Dr. Field: I would tell them that, despite its name, ASN is NOT just for Americans.  I'm certainly not an American, nor is the head of our membership committee. In fact, a growing number of ASN's leaders and its membership are international, so we really do strive to provide a home for our global members. We've already started to conduct joint symposia with other societies worldwide--not just at our meetings, but also at other society meetings.  Our international members are such an important part of those collaborations.  Research is becoming so global, and ASN provides the opportunity to start partnerships that you can later translate to your investigations and your training for your graduate students and postdocs.

Interviewer: Is there anything else that you would like current or prospective ASN members to know?

Dr. Field: It is not a huge time commitment to be involved in the society, and you really do get to see your ideas come to fruition and make a difference. ASN is the members' society; we all have a stake in it.  We can only achieve what our members want to achieve, and we are fortunate to have such wonderful members and staff working with us.

October 2012