A Conversation with ASN President Dr. Gordon Jensen
ASN is pleased to introduce our 2013-2014 President Dr. Gordon L. Jensen. In addition to his work with ASN, Dr. Jensen serves as a professor and the head of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University. He also works as a nutrition specialist at the Mt. Nittany Physician Group. A specialist in geriatric nutrition, Dr. Jensen's current research interests include nutrition screening and assessment tools for older populations and the impact of inflammatory responses on malnutrition and obesity. In this interview, Dr. Jensen discusses his goals for his presidency, his views on the future of the field, and his personal experience as an ASN member and leader. You can also find out more about Dr. Jensen and his priorities for the society in this video.
Interviewer: What are your primary goals for your term as ASN President?
Dr. Jensen: My overriding goal for this presidency is to do everything we can to encourage research funding. It's not news to anyone involved in research that the fiscal situation in Washington has created a dire lack of funding in all fields. In this climate, it's essential that we support nutrition science, particularly young investigators, in any manner we can. This support will require not only strong advocacy efforts but also partnering with other stakeholders to find alternative funding sources.
The second key area of growth I'm looking forward to is our global outreach, establishing new relationships and collaborative efforts with other societies throughout the world. These opportunities have rapidly expanded in the past several years. In order to further encourage them, ASN is currently forming a Global Advisory Ad Hoc Committee. This committee will be charged with creating a framework for international activities and partnerships with nutrition societies in other countries. It is expected to have broad representation that will seek to discern opportunities, provide guidance, and establish priorities for our growing global outreach.
In addition to these new priorities, I hope to continue to support ASN's Strategic Map, developed under Past President Sharon Donovan and supported by Past President Teresa Davis. In accordance with that strategic framework, we will continue to support and develop science-based resources, translational offerings, the learning library, and other new educational opportunities.
Interviewer: What would you say to encourage members who may be considering becoming more involved in ASN, especially those thinking about taking on leadership roles?
Dr. Jensen: First, I would say that there are lots of opportunities to get involved, and second, I would encourage them to let us know of your interest. We do send out official invitations each year soliciting participation in committees and other activities, but members are free to email us at any time. ASN is a terrific example of a highly participatory professional society, so we are always looking for new volunteers.
We have a wide range of activities available for members who are interested in getting involved. Most roles require modest time commitments, while other leadership positions do require a bit more work. Whatever role you choose, all of these opportunities are incredibly rewarding, providing members with a way to influence the future direction of the society, to get personally involved, to meet people and network. Personally, I have found it to be a wonderful chance to meet and interact with colleagues all over the world. It can certainly help with building careers and advancing relationships.
Interviewer: Where do you see the future of the nutrition field going in the next 5-10 years? What are the ongoing obstacles or advances that you think will have the biggest impact?
Dr. Jensen: This is both an exciting time and a very challenging time. Certainly, from a funding perspective it is a time of great challenge and anxiety. However, it is also a time of very exciting advances in nutrition research and clinical nutrition. We have seen tremendous growth in interdisciplinary fields as well as in the “omics” fields: metabolomics, lipidomics, proteomics, and genomics. We're also seeing improvements in personalized medicine and nutrition, breakthroughs in microbiome research, and other new research and career opportunities. I think one of the biggest roles ASN can play in the coming years is to prepare our young investigators for those opportunities. With regard to the challenges we face, ASN needs to help identify opportunities, partner with stakeholders, and continue to foster strong advocacy functions. Despite the current funding “angst,” the future does look very bright.
Interviewer: When did you first get interested in nutrition? What motivated you to pursue a career in the field?
Dr. Jensen: I grew up in a nutrition family and have a genetic predisposition. The Jensen family business goes back to when my grandfather ran a creamery business, making butter and other dairy products shipped all over the midwest. While they got out of that business some time ago, they may have laid the foundation for my father, who was a lipid biochemist at the University of Connecticut and my mother, who was a PhD dietitian there as well.
After getting a PhD in nutrition and completing medical school at Cornell, I spent my residency and fellowship years at Harvard. There I met some key clinical nutrition mentors who were among the pioneers of nutrition support in the United States. They helped me find a home in the intersection between medicine and nutrition, and I have been there ever since.
Interviewer: Where in your professional development did you first encounter ASN? Why did you decide to join and how has the society been most beneficial to your career?
Dr. Jensen: I first encountered ASN while working in graduate school. There were many reasons to join the society, all of which are still relevant today. ASN gave me the opportunity to stay abreast of the latest research and to present my own work. It also offered me the chance to interact with nutrition leaders throughout the world, to network, and to build relationships. These benefits apply to everyone from students and trainees to the most senior investigators and clinicians.