A Conversation with ASN President Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD
The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) is excited to introduce
our new President, Simin Nikbin Meydani DVM, PhD. As director
of the Jean Mayer USDA Human
Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Dr.
Meydani is a respected leader in the field. A long-time member, she
has also served as ASN's Vice President and Vice-President Elect,
as well as in a wide variety of other important roles. In this
interview, Dr. Meydani discusses her goals for her presidency and
her views on the future of the field.
Interviewer: What are your goals for your presidency? Are
there any specific initiatives planned that you are looking forward
Dr. Meydani: There are three areas of ASN's strategic plan
that I will focus on. The first is our efforts to expand
international partnerships to new regions, such as the Middle East
and South and Central America, where we have budding
relationships. I also want to continue to strengthen those
relationships that we have previously launched, such as in China,
Korea, Brazil, and Africa. The second area I will focus on is
professional development. While we will continue to offer strong
professional development programs for our graduate and
post-graduate members, I want to grow similar programs for our
members who are more advanced in their careers. I think that
providing programs for our mid-level and senior members has become
increasingly important in recent years as their jobs continue to be
more complicated and they are required to fulfill roles for which
they have not been formally trained. For example, I think there is
a lot we can do to help them prepare to be effective leaders in
their departments, as well as effective spokespersons for nutrition
as a discipline. The final area I want to focus on is diversifying
our membership in terms of professional affiliation, gender,
country of origin, and economic status.
Additionally, as we move forward with our plan to hold ASN's first
annual meeting independent of Experimental Biology in 2018, I want
to ensure that members are kept well informed and are offered ample
opportunity to provide input in the process of preparing for the
start of that initiative.
Interviewer: What do you see as the most important roles ASN
presidents play in guiding the organization? How does the system of
future/current/past presidents help that process?
Dr. Meydani: ASN's legacy-building process is special in
that we serve one year as Vice-President Elect and one year as Vice
President prior to our term as President, and then serve as Past
President in the year after that term. This gives us time to orient
ourselves to the job and to receive guidance from our predecessors.
As Vice President and Vice-President Elect, I gained a better
understanding of what issues are most important to our membership
and to observe the current President and Past President in their
work. Overall, it has been a wonderful learning experience for me
that I am sure will serve me well in the year to come.
Interviewer: What would you say to encourage ASN members
looking to take on leadership roles? What advice would you give
them as they do so?
Dr. Meydani: I would tell them that ASN is a very welcoming
organization for people interested in getting more involved. The
key for anyone who really wants to get involved is to find what you
are passionate about and volunteer in that area. One
excellent place to start is with the Research Interest Sections. I
also encourage them to express their opinions whenever they have
the opportunity to do so: in business meetings, committees, and
wherever they are volunteering.
Interviewer: Where do you see the future of the nutrition
field going in the next five to 10 years? What are the ongoing
obstacles or advances that you think will have the biggest impact?
What do you expect ASN will do to take advantage of the
advances/meet those challenges?
Dr. Meydani: With the growing number of older adults
worldwide, the biggest trend in the field in the next several years
will be a continued push toward prevention of obesity and chronic
and infectious diseases as a way to control skyrocketing health
care costs. In fact, I think the economic viability of many
countries will depend on our ability to help populations age in
good health, rather than burdened by chronic diseases and
accelerated loss of physical and mental function. Nutrition, from
fetal life onward, will play a key role in determining the
trajectory of how we age. Our role as a society and as
members of the nutrition field is to make sure, through our
research and through our outreach, that health care professionals
and policy makers appreciate the importance of nutrition in disease
Our biggest obstacle, meanwhile, is a lack of understanding and
awareness about nutrition issues. While health care
professionals get an introduction to nutrition in medical school,
their training in nutrition is minimal. And the general public,
while they are exposed to a lot of nutrition information, they are
often confused about the information they're receiving and how to
act on it. ASN is well positioned to help alleviate that confusion
by producing and disseminating the highest quality nutrition
research and making recommendations on how to implement those
findings in practical interventions.
Interviewer: How did you first discover ASN and what about
membership has been most useful to you in your professional
Dr. Meydani: I discovered ASN as a graduate student, and the
Annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago was the first meeting I ever
attended. I submitted an abstract and was selected to present,
making it my first-ever professional presentation. I cannot
tell you how valuable that experience was to me. At the time,
I was terrified to speak in front of an audience of professionals
in the field. But once I got over that, it was such a wonderful
experience. It helped build my confidence for future
presentations and in terms of my ability to communicate my
research. My husband (Mohsen) and I have also enjoyed many of
the social activities that ASN has to offer. It was wonderful
to be able to socialize, not just with professors and classmates,
but with people whose work I have read and admired.
To hear more about Dr. Meydani's presidency, watch