American Society For Nutrition

Interview with Dr. Doug Burrin, SPC Chair

Interview with Dr. Doug Burrin, SPC Chair

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
A Conversation With ASN Scientific Programs Committee Chair Dr. Douglas Burrin

ASN members are working hard to prepare for ASN's Scientific Sessions & Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology (EB) 2012, which will be held from April 21-25 in San Diego.  At the center of that planning process is the Scientific Programs Committee with Chairman Dr. Doug Burrin.  Dr. Burrin is a professor at the USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center and also the director of Fellowship Research Training in Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Department of Pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine. In a recent interview, Dr. Burrin shared details about the upcoming meeting's most exciting sessions as well as insight from his own experience with ASN and EB.

Interviewer: What factors contributed to your decision to pursue a career in nutrition?

Dr. Burrin: I became interested in nutrition, initially, when I was training in graduate school.  I undertook a research project as part of my work to complete my PhD that was focused on understanding the role of nutrition in the growth of the visceral organs, primarily the liver and gut.  That interest, and the fact that I saw my peers working in nutrition presenting quality, cutting-edge research at EB convinced me to continue pursuing nutrition research.

Interviewer: When and why did you decide to join ASN?

Dr. Burrin: I became a member when I was in graduate school.  At that time, the only way to get The Journal of Nutrition was through the library or by becoming a member.  I joined ASN at that point as a student so I could start receiving JN. It also enabled me to receive discounted admission to EB. Those are still two important aspects of membership. We can get access to the journals through various means online, but to get really timely content from the journal, you need to be a member.

Interviewer: What aspects of ASN membership have you found most useful, professionally?

Dr. Burrin: In addition to those two benefits, I have realized that, over the years, being a member of ASN has helped me become more involved in Experimental Biology and, by doing so, allows me to network with many of my colleagues in nutrition research.  I have also found that ASN is the best way in this field to enhance your career development by making yourself eligible for awards; there are now a number of awards, including junior investigator awards, that ASN offers. It also gives you the chance to get involved in a number of different groups, like the RIS groups and other various committees that allow you to start taking on leadership roles that really impact the future of the society.

Interviewer: What are you looking forward to most about April's annual meeting at EB?

Dr. Burrin: As the Scientific Program Chair, I am actively involved in developing the EB program. There are very interesting sessions coming up this year. I am particularly interested, of course, in the ASN nutrition sessions, but because EB is a large meeting that also includes other scientific societies, it offers attendees the opportunity to be exposed to diverse areas of biology. That kind of exposure is particularly important for our members because nutrition is, by nature, such an integrative science. I'm always excited to see what is new and cutting edge. EB is the best place to get this information before it is published in the journals.

Interviewer: Which topics are you most excited about, and what new features or events should attendees be aware of?

Dr. Burrin: This year's meeting will have a number of themes. One of these is the microbiome and the clinical nutrition significance of probiotics and prebiotics. One day of the meeting, including our presidential symposium, will be devoted to that area. We also have a half-day session that provides an integrative look at energy balance, specifically how energy inputs and energy expenditure affect risk for obesity, a major public health issue. We also have several sessions on fructose, which has become a hot topic nutritionally as well as in the public health arena.  There will be a session on the biology of fructose as well as a “controversy” session where speakers will discuss the nutritional value of fructose and the evidence of adverse metabolic effects.  Another day will focus on dietary fats, adipose tissue function, and the role of fats in cardiovascular disease. Finally, this year's meeting will continue to offer an Education Track Program that provides one or two sessions each day designed to highlight career development opportunities and will also be useful for nutrition educators.

Interviewer: What other clinical topics do you think will be most relevant and interesting to attendees?

Dr. Burrin: Obesity is, as always, a recurrent clinical topic in the meeting, and one afternoon there will be a clinical nutrition update sponsored by the Medical Nutrition Council. Based on a 2010 needs assessment of nutrition educators, session content will provide a concise but richly informative update on five topics that have seen rapid, recent changes.  The 2.5 hour session will include the following presentations:
-Breast Cancer Survivorship: What is the Role of Diet and Physical Activity?
-Nutrition in Oral Health
-Iron Supplementation: When and When Not?
-Celiac Disease: Update on Diagnosis and Treatment
-Update on Hospital Nutrition Support

Interviewer: Do you have any tips for submitting proposals and abstracts?

Dr. Burrin: The most important advice is to read the guidelines, which can be found on the ASN website.  They should also contact the ASN Managing Director of Education & Professional Development, Gwen Twillman. Specific questions, ideas, and concerns about funding can be addressed to either Gwen or myself.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you'd like to tell members?

Dr. Burrin: I want to urge our members to continue to submit and think about new symposium topics or activities that they think might be important to present or otherwise incorporate into the program at EB.  The organization's goal with this meeting is to be as innovative and cutting edge as possible, and it is essential that the membership plays an active role in thinking about these issues, developing proposals, and bringing them through the review process as well as interacting with staff and officers with ASN and myself about the ideas they may have. I encourage them to get together, particularly with mentors or other established colleagues, to consider finding the best experts to submit a proposal and acquire the funding.  ASN does provide funding for symposia, but there are many avenues to bring in funding from industry, various foundations, and government institutions such as NIH and the USDA.

October 2011