American Society For Nutrition

Interview with Dr. Teresa Davis, ASN President

Interview with Dr. Teresa Davis, ASN President

Excellence in Nutrition Research and Practice
Introducing 2012-13 ASN President Teresa A. Davis, PhD

We are very excited to announce that Teresa Davis, PhD, has officially taken office as President of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN). Dr. Davis is a Professor of Pediatrics at the Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine.  She is widely respected for her research on the nutritional regulation of protein metabolism and growth and is the author of over 125 peer-reviewed publications on topics including nutritional management and growth in infants, children, and farm animals. Dr. Davis spoke with us about her priorities for her presidency, her experience with ASN, and her advice for members looking to get more involved in the organization.

Interviewer: What first attracted you to nutrition?

Dr. Davis: I first wanted to go into nutrition because I wanted to better understand the metabolic responses to the food that we eat and how these responses regulate health and well-being.  Those interests led me to pursue a degree in nutrition science from the University of Tennessee, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in preventive medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine.

Interviewer: Where along that path did you discover ASN, and why did you join?

Dr. Davis: I began attending ASN's Scientific Sessions at Experimental Biology as a graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow.  I found the meetings to be very exciting, giving me the opportunity to hear cutting edge, basic, and clinical research in nutrition. I also thought that it was important to my career development to join ASN as a regular member, which I did when I was starting out as faculty member at the Children's Nutrition Research Center 25 years ago.

I joined ASN because it was, and is, the premier nutrition science society in the world.  There are other research societies that have a peripheral focus on nutrition, but ASN is the leading nutrition society with programs and activities that span the full spectrum of interests in the field: from fundamental research to applied clinical nutrition.

Interviewer: And what specific aspects of membership have you found most helpful to your professional career?

Dr. Davis: I have been involved in ASN in many ways. Since joining, I have found it extremely helpful to my career to volunteer with a number of committees as well as ASN's Research Interest Sections (RIS). I also put forward symposia proposals for Experimental Biology and attended the meetings. Then, as I “matured” in my career, I accepted leadership positions in the RIS, the journals, and the executive board. I think that all of these experiences enriched my professional career. I am a member of several different societies, but ASN has always been my professional home, and as such I feel a great commitment to the society.

Interviewer: What initiatives are you looking forward to implementing most during your presidency?

Dr. Davis: I have six primary initiatives that I will be implementing over the course of my presidency. The first is to institute the priorities of ASN's new strategic map, which was developed by ASN staff and volunteers to guide us over the next five years.  The map has been revised from a prior version to help the organization better distribute our resources and carry out the programs that are most important to our members. My second priority is to develop and disseminate ASN's educational resources to advance nutrition.  Our education portfolio is actually a key focus of the new strategic plan. We are particularly excited about the development of our virtual library that will provide members with state-of-the-art nutrition information.  My third priority is to promote and expand ASN's presence at academic meetings and scientific conferences. As many readers of these interviews have noticed, ASN members place great value on Experimental Biology and our outstanding journals. We need to make sure that we continue to make these areas a top priority for our organization. My fourth priority is to advocate for increased funding for nutrition research. Most of our ASN members consider it a top priority to obtain funding for their research activities. Unfortunately, obtaining both public and private funding has become increasingly difficult in the recent financial environment. As the national and global economy continues to recover, it is essential that ASN is able to educate industry leaders and policy makers about the importance of funding nutrition research. The fifth priority is to expand opportunities for our youngest members: graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and young investigators. ASN has already taken many progressive steps in this area, creating a number of networking activities, mentoring activities, awards, and grants designed to help support their career development. I strongly feel that we have a responsibility to continue to build such programs in order to provide a solid foundation for the next generation of nutrition leaders.  My final priority is to continue to foster our international activities.  ASN has recently partnered with nutrition societies in Korea, China, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. We need to build on these developing interactions as well as our affiliations with other professional societies, such as the American Diabetes Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Society of Animal Science.

Interviewer: How would you encourage members who want to play a more active role in ASN?

Dr. Davis: There are many opportunities for members to get more involved.  Each year, ASN puts forth a call for volunteers. ASN members can answer that call and volunteer for committees including the Minority Affairs Committee, the Public Policy Committee, the Symposium Advisory Committee, and so forth.  They can also join our 15 RIS, which cover topics such as Diet and Cancer, Energy and Macronutrient Metabolism, Lactation, and Nutrient-Gene Interactions.  Within these sections, members can volunteer to run symposia at Experimental Biology, judge research award competitions, and many other activities. Additionally, members are encouraged to participate with our three councils: the Medical Nutrition Council, the International Nutrition Council, and the Nutritional Sciences Council. Finally, members may serve as spokespersons for ASN, independently propose symposia for EB and other meetings, and submit articles to or serve as reviewers for our top nutrition journals: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The Journal of Nutrition, and Advances in Nutrition.  

These opportunities help serve the society and the global nutrition field, and I've also found they provide wonderful prospects for career advancement.  For that reason, I would like to specifically encourage our graduate student and postdoctoral members to put themselves forward for any of these volunteer opportunities.  It is so important to ASN to get your input and your perspective on these committees and particularly in our Student Interest Group and the Postdoctoral Research Interest Group

The full RIS list, the full committee list, and more information on the three councils can be found on the web site.

Interviewer: What are the biggest challenges that you see facing the nutrition field? What can ASN and its members do to help tackle these challenges?  

Dr. Davis: In the broadest sense, I believe that our biggest challenge is the obesity epidemic, which currently affects approximately one-third of the national population.  Obesity, of course, is also associated with a number of other diseases, and thus, it has a serious impact on our healthcare system.  Unfortunately, that impact is likely to continue to grow, as almost one-third of all children in the United States are overweight or obese and, as such, are much more likely to become overweight or obese adults with the accompanying health problems. In order to tackle this problem, nutrition scientists, clinicians, exercise physiologists, and other experts who make up ASN's membership must work together.  Fortunately, ASN and its members are recognized as the premier source for nutrition information, and we continue to promote the translation and dissemination of that information as well as to advocate for nutrition research and policy.

June 2012