Carol A. Lange, PhD, Vice President, Basic Science, offered her advice for navigating ENDO 2017 and shared her thoughts on the future of the organization and the field in general with the ENDO Daily. Dr. Lange is Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center in Minneapolis, MN.
ENDO Daily: What drew you to the endocrinology field?
Dr. Lange: I would have to say the people. When I was in graduate school I worked on G-protein-coupled receptors in lung cancer. My advisor did not go to the Endocrine Society, but I used to go to Gordon Research conferences and other small meetings. I didn’t know I was working on endocrinology; I was working on Cyclic AMP signaling which is part of endocrinology. I then did a post doc for three years in a totally separate field. After that I did a second post doc with Kate Horowitz, who was a long-time Endocrine Society member. She took her entire lab of about 18 people to ENDO. My very first year that I went, there were all “my people” I remembered seeing at those small meetings during graduate school. I remember coming back and telling my parents, “I found my people at the Endocrine Society!” Kate became president the next year, so she was president during the time I was in her lab. That was a big deal for the lab. We’d all go together. We’d all have posters and she would introduce us to everyone. As a basic scientist, I didn’t consider myself to be an endocrinologist at all. The Horwitz lab worked on breast cancer and hormones. But that’s what we were, and going to the meeting was a huge event for our area of research. I was hooked early in my career largely because I had found my people at ENDO.
ENDO Daily: What advice would you give basic scientists, particularly first-time attendees, to maximize their ENDO 2017 experience?
Dr. Lange: Attend the plenaries, for sure. Go to the basic science sessions, but sit close to the front in the first 10 or 15 rows and notice those people who are up there. They all know each other. When they come in, they hug each other. They show each other pictures of their kids. Those people get up and ask questions. You should, too. Then, go to poster sessions and find those same people and their posters and their trainees. Start meeting them. Go to the social events and start meeting those people. Really, the basic scientist group is a small but very strong part of the very large meeting. It’s a pretty tight knit group. It’s also easy to network because that group is relatively small. You’ll see that if you go to the basic sessions, you see the same people over and over, especially if you engage. Young people tend to be on social media, and sit back. I’d say put away your devices, get in there, be present, sit up front, and ask questions.
ENDO Daily: As the Society embarks on its second century, what is on the horizon for the Society and the field at large?
Dr. Lange: Endocrinology touches everything. All of the endocrine systems are linked together. Diabetes touches cancer; metabolism touches both diabetes and cancer. We can really see some connections through endocrinology that other fields won’t see. That’s where innovation comes from. You get all of these endocrinologists together at this meeting and start having sessions that cross fields. Where diseases cross, that is where you get new collaborations, meet new people, and think of new ideas.
On the horizon is more integration with our big technologies, our big genetic data–those kinds of platforms where you can see patterns in diseases. You can learn a lot about one disease by looking at another when they have these common endocrine pathways at play. I feel like this is the one meeting that does that. Not only is it basic, clinical, and translational, but it’s also all of the aspects of endocrinology. If you start to go to those sessions outside your area, you start to learn a lot about your own field, and you have new insights and ideas.
Right now, we treat full-blown cancer and full-blown diabetes. These are very common diseases. But let’s talk about how to prevent them from happening. We have an opportunity where we can bring in scientists who study the hard science of metabolism, including nutrition, and ask how does our lifestyle, our diet and exercise or stress level for example, control the expression of our genes that in turn control the development of these diseases. Let’s learn about the basic science of these complex and interrelated endocrine processes and prevent those diseases instead of waiting until people get them. This is a much bigger field than we even have at our large meeting. I think we can tap into that as a way to spur new innovation and have an impact on health.
We need to stay modern. I think the real modernization, for example, in the cancer field, is the era of genomics. We do a lot of deep sequencing and try to find out which genes confer cancer risk and which cancers co-opt which pathways. The process is going to become part of how we study all of the other endocrine diseases, including diabetes and obesity. What are the genetic pathways and signaling pathways that contribute to disease development, and how is that reflected in gene expression? Technology and public databases is the future for endocrinology. To me, that also means crossing fields and trying to understand the big picture of all the endocrine systems and how they interact. That’s where the innovation will come from when you start to blend fields together. That’s why ENDO is such a great meeting. You can do all of that here.