Member Newsletter Fall 2017

 

September 2017 Newsletter

Membership dues

A dues notice will be coming out under a separate email in the next few days from ISCHE@wjweiser.comDues are increasingto $200.00 for regular members; the annual dues for members from low-to-middle income countries and students are $50.00.  Why are we asking for an increase in annual dues? Council members have been managing the ISCHE website and dues payment system, but it has been laborious and we aren’t necessarily good at doing it (Some of you have had problems paying your annual dues). To maintain and grow ISCHE we are convinced that we need the help of a management service to help ISCHE fulfill its mission. This increase will allow stability of the organization, improved services, organizational insurance, and the hiring of WJ Weiser and Associates. WJ Weiser is an association management firm servicing over 50 medical specialty and subspecialty societies, and they will help with the basic management of our small but growing professional society.

Cuernavaca 2016

ISCHE Retreats

ISCHE has held three retreats in the last few years and we are eager to hold meetings every 12-18 months. The ISCHE meeting attendees indicated that they favor smaller gatherings of members with ignite-style talks meant to galvanize the group, and inspire new ideas and conversation. In the summer of 2014, ISCHE held its first stand-alone meeting at the woodsy and serene Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island, Washington.  Sixty attendees, one third of whom were from outside of the US, came together for discussions of the future of children’s environmental health and ISCHE’s role in leading and supporting change. The society’s second meeting took place in January 2016 at a lovely hacienda in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Most recently, ISCHE returned to Whidbey Island for a week devoted to science, advocacy, writing time, and ample camaraderie.  In attendance were colleagues from academia, medicine, NGOs, and government.  Many attendees have said that ISCHE retreats are exactly the kind of meeting that they are looking for and offer a refreshing, productive alternative to the large scientific meetings of other societies. In the future, we hope to continue to make the meeting accessible to international colleagues by finding venues in regions outside of the US and offering travel funds to investigators from developing countries and/or in their early career stage. We have been tentatively invited to hold a meeting in Norway in 2 or 3 years and are considering other opportunities.  Below are some notes that reflect a portion of the activities at this year’s retreat.

Whidbey Island 2017

Highlights from 2017 retreat:

“It made me come out of my comfort zone as a scientist and as a person. I am not used to asking questions in front large groups (and even less likely to tell personal stories), but discussions were so interesting that I felt compelled to participate. This is a really important issue for me because in large scientific conferences it is hard to voice your opinion and ask questions to more senior researchers. The environment in the ISCHE meeting was so relaxed and informal and all participants were so approachable that it made the interactions a lot easier. “

“It’s been a tough year for everyone, and the ISCHE event really helped to lift spirits and revitalize our energy for the battle ahead.  The ISCHE workshop was truly a retreat – like a Science Spa for the mind and soul.”

“My return home was full of emotions and motivations to contribute to children’s health in my country.”

“You have created something truly unique, wonderful and energizing.“

In August, ISCHE returned to Whidbey Island, the site of the 2014 meeting, for its first writing and advocacy retreat. The week was devoted to enhancing advocacy efforts, navigating the future of the field in changing political climates, and time for writing (not to mention rejuvenating morning yoga, nature walks, and delicious food).  In attendance were colleagues from academia, medicine, advocacy NGOs, and government.  Some highlights of the week are described below:

In a session on “Beyond the Birth Cohorts”, attendees discussed the limitations of research imposed by birth cohort designs and novel approaches to policy-relevant research with and without data from a longitudinal cohort. Topics included how to make birth cohort findings more applicable to regulatory decisions and how scientists can better contribute to risk assessments.  The group weighed the pros and cons of nesting randomized-controlled intervention studies within ongoing birth cohorts, leveraging funding to conduct spin-off intervention studies in parallel, and using cohort findings to design separate community interventions. The group discussed how these strategies can preserve the scientific integrity of the original observational design while also generating timely and practical knowledge on how to better protect children’s health.  There was also discussion of the attention-grabbing power of exposure studies and the importance of clearly communicating the meaning of these research findings to media and regulators so as to maximize their impact.

In a session on “Forging Teams of Scientists and Advocates to Enact Environmental Health Policy”, discussants described ISCHE’s collaborative efforts with the Boston University Superfund Research Program (BUSRP), Project TENDR, and advocacy groups such as NRDC to develop a national program and database facilitating collaborations between scientists, clinicians and advocates.  Such an infrastructure would greatly expedite scientific support to multiple litigations that are being developed to challenge federal policy initiatives that are detrimental to children’s health.  This mechanism would assure that groups like the NRDC efficiently access and accurately utilize the science they need while at the same time protecting scientists’ time and resources.  The collaboration could also be used to link community groups facing environmental health concerns to scientific expertise. Several ISCHE members have also been successful in connecting students with advocacy and community groups seeking timely risk assessments and exposure studies for policy decisions and legal cases.  A thoughtful presentation described a class run at Columbia where the students conducted a risk assessment with guidance from experienced mentors that was used by NRDC. Students and collaborators have both benefitted from these interactions, with many students finding the experience demanding but incredibly rewarding and relevant to their future careers. In addition to joining the ISCHE-TENDR database, ISCHE scientists and advocates can champion each other’s victories, clearly communicate complex, scientific findings to stakeholders, and be open about expectations as they build these cross-disciplinary relationships. The database collaboration has received some base funding and made significant headway during the meeting and the working group looks forward to expanding this resource across and outside of the US.

The final session of the week, focused on “Accelerating Change to Protect Children from Toxic Chemicals”, assembled a diverse panel of ISCHE members involved in research translation efforts. In this session, we heard about various activities ISCHE members are using to spur change and generated ideas about how ISCHE can support this work and promote more of it. Strategies discussed included concerting efforts to incorporate CEH research translation into medical and doctoral curricula and exams, increasing the visibility of CEH by expanding to pediatric journals and meetings, working with advocates to defend the science while calling out the special interests trying to discredit it, defending our allies in government who may get caught in political crosshairs, and finding ways to involve parents, teachers, and other supporters of CEH in the campaign.  Further, ISCHE can do more to support and empower its own members by facilitating exchange of mentorship, advocacy resources, and educational tools across the society both nationally and internationally and by elevating the stories and victories of its members and our allies. 

A highlight all will remember fondly was an evening of story telling by members of our community. Nearly everyone had a chance to tell a story and they were fantastic. A rapt audience was alternately rolling with laughter, crying and tender, or thoughtfully moved. All were astounded that these stories were so well told they could have been on the Moth Radio Hour.

We will also remember the tasty, healthy, and beautifully prepared meals and the friendliness and support of the Whidbey Institute staff. For those who haven’t been to our meetings there and would like to see the place, their website is: https://whidbeyinstitute.org

We had a field trip to the Organic Farm School with a great tour host Judy Feldman. They are doing outstanding work both training organic farmers and conducting organic farming research. Below is a message from Judy

Thanks for a great group and great conversation! Please let the group know that they can stay in touch!

Here’s a link to that story about the farm worker I spoke of...http://prospect.org/article/braceros-strike-after-one-worker-dies

ISCHE will make small contributions (funded from the meeting tuition) to the Organic Farm School and to the Whidbey Institute Scholarship Fund in honor of the work and hospitality of these fine institutions.

Special thanks to the 2017 Whidbey Planning Committee members Alexis Handal, Bruce Lanphear, Mark Miller, Walter Rogan, Sheela Sathyanarayana, and Robin Whyatt who worked tirelessly in the months before the retreat to make the week a memorable and successful one! Above all we wish to thank Jennifer Ames who has contributed so much of her time, energy, and organizational skills to ISCHE this past year as coordinator. Her efforts made this meeting a resounding success.

 

Herbert Needleman Scientist-Advocate Award for Outstanding Contributions to Children’s Health and the Environment

In 2017, the International Society for Children’s Health and the Environment (ISCHE) established the Herbert Needleman Scientist-Advocate Award to honor Herbert Needleman, a pediatrician who devoted his life to studying and protecting children from toxic chemicals. This award, which will typically be awarded annually, recognizes an individual’s outstanding contribution to understanding and preventing the adverse impact of toxic chemicals on children. The awardee will preferentially be perceived to be an unsung hero; a scientist-advocate whose work has yet to be recognized. ISCHE is accepting tax-deductible donations to fund this award.

Nominations

Nominations are not accepted for the Herbert Needleman Award. Members of the ISCHE Awards Committee, who will develop selection criteria and select a recipient, are not eligible for the award during their service on the committee. If you are interested in volunteering for this or other committees, please let Jenn Ames know at: jlames@berkeley.edu

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