Introducing Richard J. Santen

The Endocrine Society is pleased to welcome its president for 2014 – 2015, Richard J. Santen, MD, who took office June 25. A professor of internal medicine at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Santen is a renowned expert on aromatase inhibitor development for the treatment of breast cancer, mechanisms whereby estrogens induce breast cancer and estrogen metabolomics as a means to predict who will develop breast cancer, the effects of menopausal therapy on breast cancer, and menopause management.

Santen succeeds Teresa K. Woodruff , PhD, as the Society continues its rotation of presidents who represent its core constituencies: basic researchers, clinical researchers, and clinical practitioners. Santen’s career has spanned each of these areas, as he has spent his time as an endocrinologist both at the bench and by the bedside. Because of this varied experience, he considers the Endocrine Society to be his scientific home.

Santen first joined the Society more than 40 years ago, when he was a clinical fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle. Since joining the Society, he has been very active serving as a member, chair, or liaison to various committees, including Finance and Audit, Minority Affairs, and the Council. “A particular interest of mine was the establishment of the International Scholars Program, now in its 11th year,” he says.

Santen has also been a member of several of the Endocrine Society’s task forces, helping to write educational materials for the Hormone Health Network on issues related to menopause, as well as participating in writing groups for clinical practice guidelines. “The participation on these committees and task forces has allowed me to meet and work with stellar colleagues and to form warm relationships with many of them,” he says. “In addition, I have worked closely with many of the staffof the Endocrine Society and found this to provide wonderful working relationships.”

Santen envisions facilitating collaboration among the Endocrine Society’s constituencies by exploring a unique type of educational program in conjunction with the Trainee and Career Development Core Committee. “This will provide a comprehensive review of existing information on a specific topic directed toward basic, translational, and clinical researchers, as well as clinicians in practice,” he says.

In addition to his clinical and research specialties, Santen has a keen interest in mentoring the younger generation of endocrinologists, something he wants to expand upon as president of the Endocrine Society. “In my opinion, Santen says, “the Endocrine Society needs to nurture and develop the future Society leaders so that it will remain a vibrant and creative society.” To do that, we must recognize that the next generation of endocrinologists has some hurdles to clear along the way. For one, National Institutes of Health funding has been declining “in real dollars” over the past decade, and the more experienced investigators are outcompeting the younger researchers for the available funding dollars.

Another problem is that practicing clinicians will almost exclusively be found in the hospital setting within the next 10 years. “This will create pressures for e ciency and reduce the time available for scholarly activities,” Santen says. “Unless we as a Society address these issues, the Society will not be able to retain its vibrant, scholarly character over the next decade.”

Santen envisions an initiative to “provide major benefit to the Nex Gen members.” This initiative will provide these Nex Gen members with the ability to obtain advice from world leaders. Nex Gen members will submit clinical cases and questions, and the Endocrine Society will forward these to two experts to give their opinion within aspecified time frame and provide references in the literature to back up their opinions. “This will be particularly useful for our international members,” Santen says. “The idea is to harness the intellectual power of our senior members to enhance the careers of young members.”

Santen’s next generation initiative emphasizes the need to create innovative programs that enhance the recruitment, retention, and empowerment of early career endocrinologists beyond their training completion. Santen has commissioned an intercommittee task force with two goals in mind: to examine in detail the issues affecting the next generation of endocrinologists and determine future directions for the Society in expanding opportunities for early career endocrinologists; and to develop a road map for enhancement of their career advancement and workforce development.

“If young endocrinologists cannot capture sufficient funding to carry out their innovative ideas, those ideas are lost,” he continues. “Consider if James Watson had come up with the idea of the double helix of DNA today, he would not be taken seriously and he certainly could not have obtained funding to support his idea. We need to give considerable thought to the development of means to allow young investigators to pursue their ideas.”

Santen’s plans to focus on the career enhancement of endocrinologists during the first two decades after completion of their training reflects the Society’s commitment to serving its members as described in the Society’s strategic plan.

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