How would you characterize your presidency in terms of actions taken and decisions made?
As the first president of the Society, it fell on me to find ways to create structure where none existed and to identify resources to support necessary activities. A number of developments worked in our favor: For example, the Bylaws of the Society of Behavioral Medicine provided an excellent precedent and many organizational features, such as the use of a Council structure to allow the Board of Directors to function efficiently even when the organization became large, were adapted. It was also my good fortune to be able to tap the enthusiasm of very capable people to share the vision of what a multidisciplinary society for supporting research on nicotine and tobacco should be. John Hughes and John Rosecranz played a critical role in the beginning, along with the twenty colleagues who served on the invitation committee for an organizational meeting held at SBM in April, 1994. The attendees were favorably disposed to the idea of banding together to foster research and, as a result, by September of the same year, SRNT had over 100 Charter Members. These people created the volunteer infrastructure that provided the energy and creativity that was critical to the Society’s early success.
Were there any notable movements or events (e.g., the tobacco settlement) that affected your presidency?
An earlier development that set the stage for SRNT was C. Everett Koop’s emphasis on the importance of smoking as a public health problem when he was Surgeon General and his strong advocacy for science-based approaches to public health. These positions influenced public opinion and policy in favorable ways for the new research society, including the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry—both have been strong supporters of the Society from its inception.
How would you describe your presidency in terms of the overall growth and trajectory of SRNT?
The numbers tell the story: from 3 to 20 organizers in 1993; from 20 to over 100 members in 1994.
What do you consider your most important contribution to SRNT?
Recognizing that nicotine and tobacco research deserved to have a research society of its own and knowing that there was ample skill and talent in the field to pull it off brilliantly.
In your opinion, what are the most notable developments in the field of nicotine and tobacco research over the
past ten years?
As a biobehavioral researcher, I am struck by the growing sophistication in the field, in which highly technical scientific disciplines work together toward a common goal. With increasing regularity, studies are now being undertaken that integrate research on underlying mechanisms with behavioral methodology in the context of measured genetics to get at individual variation. This kind of multi-disciplinary effort offers the best hope for understanding, in a comprehensive and satisfactory way, what makes cigarette smoking such a potent addiction. These trends have important implications both for neuroscience and public health.
What should I have asked you that I haven't? Please add any further comments or observations you wish.
Tobacco smoking continues to be a major public health problem throughout the world. On the one hand, the tobacco industry shows no signs of changing its focus on bottom-line profitability regardless of the consequences. On the other hand, major scientific discoveries are just around the corner and many of these developments will provide new insights about nicotine dependence and tobacco smoking that will have practical implications. As the major scientific research society in the field, SRNT has an important role to play—and its future seems bright.