Science exchange encourages collaboration

By Monica Bullock, ORISE Public Affairs Assistant, Army Public Health Center (Provisional)July 28, 2016

APHC (P) Science exchange
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Williams giving presentation
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Science exchange booth
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Award winners at science exchange
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The Army Public Health Center (Provisional) completed its second annual Science Exchange May 18-19, integrating and encouraging collaboration for scientists from both within and outside of the organization.

The exchange provided multiple opportunities for scientists to practice presenting their work in a fairly non-threatening environment and gain skills in explaining it clearly and succinctly. Dr. Lauren Grattan, an ORISE participant in the Public Health Assessment Program who also won an award for her oral presentation on the relationship between drug use and drug-testing policy, said that it's "helpful to share your research with different audiences to get feedback, especially if you plan on publishing the research and presenting it to other stakeholders."

Dr. Mark Williams, a toxicologist, served as the Chair of the Planning and Coordinating Committee. He said he applied for the position to practice team building and gain leadership experience at APHC with talented individuals.

"If it were not for being selected, I don't think I would otherwise have had the opportunity to work so closely with such a diverse, passionate and dedicated group of individuals," said Williams.

The committee had to be quite large in order to cover everything involved with the exchange, and Dr. Williams said that he was "honored to see firsthand just how well other members of the scientific and technical personnel at APHC could collaborate; matrix their knowledge, skills and abilities; and dynamically interact in the pursuit of achieving a common goal and mission."

The first day consisted of two rooms booked full of oral presentations in the morning; then a viewing and judging of thematic posters during lunch break, and a guided poster session where each author presented their poster and answered questions from the audience. Delores Davis, Senior Professional for Strategic Integration Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, served as the guest speaker. She spoke on strategic integration of human dimension in the workplace.

"I truly believe in helping the institution find solutions so that we could stay focused on social care and how we make a Soldier the best Soldier they can be," said Davis.

APHC (P) scientists and researchers who attended the event thought it was very worthwhile.

"It's a great place to find out what other people are doing and learn about their research to gain better awareness of APHC (P)," said Tyson Grier, who gave an oral presentation on preventing combat injuries.

Dr. Emily Lent, a toxicologist who won an award for her poster on the effects of chemical NTO on rats, shared her sentiments.

"It's nice because you also get to share your own research and promote what you are doing, which can lead to discussion and collaboration," said Lent.

The way the posters were presented had changed from last year to become more interactive and discussion-oriented, as described by Lee Crouse, a biologist in the toxicology directorate: "The poster session was just during lunch hour and you would go around and authors would talk about their posters. This year it's a little bit more like a presentation, a mix between an actual oral presentation and a thematic poster."

Dr. Steven Cersovsky, APHC (P) science advisor, provided oversight for the Science Exchange. He said he enjoyed being able to see the breadth of what APHC (P) does and to learn completely new things in the presentations.

"I get to see all the documents that are produced from this organization, but they're just that, they're documents," said Cersovsky. "So actually getting to talk to the people behind it, to see them present their work, it really brings them alive and helps other individuals understand them."

The second day was similar, with oral presentations in the morning, viewing of thematic posters during lunch, and it featured two keynote speakers: Sharyn Saunders, director of the Army Resiliency directorate and Capt. Kimberly Elenberg, deputy director of Total Force Fitness .

"Our honorable invited speakers delivered thought-provoking, engaging and powerful keynote presentations," said Williams.

Day two closed with the awards ceremony where the judges revealed their rankings of the presentations and posters, and the winning authors accepted their awards, followed by remarks by APHC (P) Director John Resta.

The event also featured guest judges, including Dr. Shyam Biswal, professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. David A. Jackson, director and Pulmonary Health Research Program chair at the United States Army Center for Environmental Health Research, and Dr. Saber Hussain, fellow senior toxicologist and group leader at the Human Effectiveness Directorate.

APHC (P) officials say the Science Exchange expanded a lot since last year. The first time the event was held it was only one day and less than 200 people participated. This year they dreamed bigger and extended it to two days to make room for new things like demonstration tables, poster sessions, larger oral presentation rooms and more keynote speakers. Attendance was about 368 -- a 70 percent increase from last year.

"The turnout was excellent--it matched or even surpassed our initial expectations actually, and folks that attended this event made it a vibrant and active exchange of ideas, thoughtful discussion and an opportunity for future collaborations," said Williams.

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Army Public Health Center (Provisional)