How would you characterize your presidency in terms of actions taken and decisions made?
My goals were simple: To foster aggressive advocacy for research on nicotine and tobacco in service of public health. I did my best to provide a voice for science in tobacco policy development treatment evaluation and prevention strategies. This meant working to make SRNT more visible and relevant to policy makers and health leaders and helping to find appropriate SRNT experts to provide guidance and serve on various committees to provide a voice for science to
Were there any notable movements or events (e.g., the tobacco settlement) that affected your presidency?
Tobacco science and policy were major issues nationally and internationally. During my presidency, the FDA’s Tobacco Regulation was being implemented and FDA was drawing heavily on FDA scientists for guidance; NIH tobacco research was expanding, and the World Health Organization was becoming thoroughly engaged in tobacco science and policy issues in the process of development of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These events gave SRNT an opportunity to contribute and its members to establish themselves and the organization as the world’s premiere organization dedicated to nicotine and tobacco research in service of public health. As individuals and as an organization we were invited to testify and provide briefings to the FDA, to organizations and government agencies on five continents, and to various meeting of WHO. We launched our journal, Nicotine and Tobacco Research in early 1999 and initiated development of a website. We laid the ground work for our European affiliate, holding our first European meeting in August 1998, in Copenhagen.
How would you describe your presidency in terms of the overall growth and trajectory of SRNT?
The SRNT rocket ship had been brilliantly launched and guided by my predecessors and the members of the Boards of Directors and so I was fortunate enough to serve as president during continue growth. During this period I simply did my best to support efforts to distinguish SRNT as a science organization and not an advocacy organization, except as pertained to science advocacy. I believe that this distinction has helped SRNT to attract its world class membership and build phenomenal science credibility in a relatively short few years. I take no credit for the distinction but did my best to support efforts to sustain the distinction. I do take great pride in my association with an organization that has emerged so quickly with such a strong reputation for excellence in science, commitment to diversity along many dimensions, and relevance to health and policy. Dr. C.Everett Koop’s keynote at the 2003 meeting (video available from the RWJF Innovators Awards Program at Johns Hopkins) framed the place of our organization as well as our challenges.
What do you consider your most important contribution to SRNT?
At the broader level, I am grateful for the opportunity to have doing what I could to sustain SRNT’s incredible trajectory (which existed when I became president) to emergence as the premiere tobacco and nicotine science organization. I am especially fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Edward Singleton, Linda Pederson and others, to establish our special populations committee to contribute to an organization with the intellectual, cultural, and population diversity, up to the challenges posed by the diversity of tobacco using populations, practices and issues.
At an administrative level, the least pleasant but perhaps more critical of my challenges was to address various membership complaints and what appeared to me was unsatisfactory financial accounting from our management service. I therefore established an ad hoc oversight committee to review management services and ordered an independent financial review. This led to the eventual dismissal of the service provider that had served to launch SRNT. My colleagues who enable transition to a new services organization and a healthier and stronger SRNT are numerous but I must acknowledge the absolutely indispensable support and tireless efforts of Maxine Stitzer (then, the immediate past president and chair of our committee to find a new service provider), Ovide Pomerleau (in sustaining fidelity to our by-laws and charter), Raymond Niaura (chair of the finance committee), program chairs Scott Leischow and Joy Schmitz (who needed to provide contingency plans for a national meeting to be held during this organizational transition), and John Pinney, who provided indispensable counsel and administrative support services to the organization in lieu of our defunct service provider.
In your opinion, what are the most notable developments in the field of nicotine and tobacco research over the past ten years?
In the early 1990s, the role of nicotine receptor subpopulations, genetic and cultural contributors to the trajectory of the tobacco use was just beginning to become unraveled. Layered on these factors was how tobacco industry marketing efforts and integrated product design to undermined cessation, fostered initiation, and enhanced the trajectory towards addiction and premature death. (e.g., use of menthol as a marketing device and tobacco ingredient. The concept that tobacco was not just a deadly nicotine delivery system but that Tobacco Delivered Nicotine was deliberately and substantially enhanced by the tobacco industry through manipulation of design and ingredients was barely on our radar screen. The trajectory of development of tobacco use and how prevention and treatment efforts needed to work synergistically to achieve healthier trajectories was another of the major areas of science advance that are simply too numerous to list here.
SRNT contributed substantially to these advances by providing the forum for dissemination, discussion, and translation. SRNT contributed to the growth of NIH support for research and conferences and then provided the forum through its annual meeting to disseminate research findings and nourish further research. SRNT also collaborated with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders such as Steven Schroeder and Nancy Kaufman to develop and fund conferences (e.g., the NIDA/RWJF “Addicted to Nicotine Conference” in 1998 and 11th World Conference on Smoking or Health in 2000. My president’s symposium highlighted RWJF research through its Tobacco Etiology Research Network (TERN) chaired by Richard Clayton which has explored the nature and determinants of tobacco use trajectories and patterns. We have much more to learn to more effectively prevent and treat tobacco addiction, and to alter trajectories of tobacco use but our science is well on the way to enabling the end of the 21st century to mirror the end of the 19th century when tobacco-caused death was a relatively small global health malady.
How exciting to be part of an organization with such a reputation for excellence in science and relevance to public health policy, so willing to critically review itself and advance its own policies to ensure its integrity, and so filled with members who make meetings an absolute joy to attend. I am grateful for all of this and for my opportunity to have been one of the small gears in this lovely clock.