Message From The President

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I am very honored to be serving as the President of PNIRS for 2019-2020.   I have been a devoted member of the society since 1994, when Margaret Kemeny brought a group of her trainees from UCLA to attend the second PNIRS meeting in Key Biscayne, FL.  In this welcome message I want to give thanks, provide updates, and look ahead to the coming year. 

Let me start by thanking Past President Deborah Hodgson for her dedicated service to the society and particularly her efforts in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion and her commitment to early career scientists and trainees.   Deb’s inspirational leadership supported a number of new initiatives, including our first Meeting Code of Conduct and our first member-sponsored symposium for Early Career Scientists.  This symposium was just one of the highlights of the outstanding meeting in Berlin, which included a record 317 attendees.  Many thanks to the Executive Committee, the Program Committee, the Local Organizing Committee, and the Training Committee for putting together an amazing program in a beautiful setting.  We are also indebted to Executive Director Susan Solomon and to Jackie Newman for their tireless efforts on behalf of our society – the meeting (and so much else!) would not be possible without them.  This year was bittersweet as Jackie transitioned to new opportunities but we are pleased to welcome Lauren Redman as our new administrative coordinator. 

I also want to acknowledge Michael Irwin for his visionary sponsorship of the Michael Irwin Equity and Diversity Travel Awards, which were presented for the first time this year in Berlin.  These awards are designed to facilitate attendance by academics/researchers at the PNIRS annual meeting who are from underrepresented groups and/or who conduct research dedicated to issues related to equity and diversity, and reflect the commitment of PNIRS to these important goals.   The awards were given to 6 exceptional scientists this year and we encourage you to advertise them broadly as we prepare for PNIRS 2020! 

For me the unique feature of the PNIRS and its annual meeting is the opportunity to engage with scientists working at all levels of the translational continuum; truly from bench to bedside to clinic and back.  Although there is an increasing focus on psychoneuroimmune interactions at other meetings, there are very few places where basic and clinical scientists meet to present and discuss their work.  This provides incredibly rich opportunities to bring basic observations into the clinic to enhance our understanding and ability to treat complex physical and mental disorders; and to take the observations and discoveries from the clinical realm back into the lab to probe basic underlying mechanisms. 

The PNIRS 2020 meeting in Los Angeles, CA (June 3-6 at the beautiful new Luskin Conference Center at UCLA) will explicitly feature the translational power of PNI.  The theme of the meeting will be “From cells to cytokines to health:  PNI in translation”, and translational research will be highlighted throughout the program.  At this point we have three confirmed speakers:  Norman Cousins award winner Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu, Robert Ader award winner Eric Wohleb, and Glaser Frontiers in PNI lecturer Matthias Nahrendorf.  Each of these amazing scientists embodies the focus of the meeting in their use of cutting-edge basic science to address critical questions about some of the most pressing health issues of our time.  In addition, the nominating committee for the George Solomon lecture is hard at work identifying a speaker working on the “P” side of PNI and we look forward to that announcement in the coming weeks. 

Other elements of the meeting will also feature translation.  The short course will focus on Cutting Edge Techniques in PNI research, including new approaches to understanding and assessing complex behavior across species.  The symposia and oral sessions will integrate basic and clinical approaches by featuring scientists from across the translational continuum.  Stay tuned for the call for symposium proposals in early October, which will prioritize submissions that include both basic and clinical scientists.   There will also be lunch roundtables that provide an opportunity for basic and clinical scientists to meet and discuss common areas of interest.  The Scientific Affairs Committee is cooking up some new ideas and we look forward to testing new formats and approaches at this meeting – stayed tuned! 

Finally, the Executive Committee is working hard to provide the vision and administrative support required to sustain and grow the society and help harness our incredible science and discoveries to transform health.  We have decided to hire a professional management group that will oversee the website and annual meeting, and past presidents Bill Banks and Mark Opp are actively interviewing potential candidates.  Building on the success of the meeting with GEBIN in Berlin, we are considering co-sponsored meetings with other professional societies working in the area of PNI.  We are also forming a subcommittee, PNIRS 2025, led by past president Deb Hodgson, who will be discussing the future of the society and formulating a strategic vision.   As members, we need your active engagement with these and other initiatives, and look forward to your input and new ideas. 

Thanks for your attention, and look forward to seeing everyone in sunny LA next June! 

Best regards,

Julie Bower