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