August 5, 2021
We’ve often written about the many existing venues, activities, and materials designed to encourage public dialogue and informed discussion about animal research. Many individuals, institutions, and organizations contribute to public outreach and education efforts, and also take active roles in dialogue about continuing changes in practice and policy concerning animal welfare and the conduct of animal research. In this series of posts we are highlighting a wide range of individuals and groups devoted to consideration of animal research. Today’s post by Dr. Douglas Taylor features the AALAS Foundation. ~Speaking of Research
American Association for Laboratory Animal Science Foundation
Douglas K. Taylor, DVM, MS, DACLAM, President, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science
I have never claimed to be an ideal role model for those seeking clarity in career choices and direction. I am a bit restless by nature and a wandering spirit of sorts; the winding course I followed from veterinary school to my present position as American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) President bear witness to this fact. My journey—at least in view—shows us how life leads us where we truly belong if we take the time to build relationships with people along the way and trust our instincts. Theodore Roosevelt once said that the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. It took me a while to get here, but I found my way.
When I attended veterinary school at Michigan State University, laboratory animal medicine was nowhere to be found in the curriculum. The situation in this regard has improved dramatically at many veterinary schools including my alma mater, but I will contend that the discipline continues to be largely overlooked as a rewarding career choice for young veterinarians. The result for me was that I had zero intention of pursuing laboratory animal medicine. Frankly, I just wanted to get out of school and move on with life, and so I entered private practice. I eventually became enamored with wildlife toxicology—a longer story for later. I found my way to Clemson University studying wildlife toxicology. And THIS is where my present career trajectory started.
Landing at Clemson was serendipitous for many reasons, the most significant of which is that I developed relationships with the laboratory animal veterinary corps. Most impactful to me were friendships made with Drs Harold Farris and Linda Fulton. As I began to question whether my research career tack was what I truly wanted, they suggested I investigate residencies in comparative medicine, to which I initially replied, “What’s that?”. In due time, I was convinced that the discipline I previously knew nothing about could be the right one for me. The Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM) at the University of Michigan offered to me a position in the residency training program in 2002 and I have never looked back. I attended my first AALAS meeting in 2003. I decided at that point in time that this was an organization to which I wanted to contribute. The AALAS mission to advance laboratory animal care and welfare through education resonated with me then and still does today.
The AALAS Foundation is the public outreach arm of the AALAS organization, seeking to inform the public about the important role of animals in research via its various public outreach programs, free resource materials, and its two public awareness websites the www.Kids4Research.org and www.care.aalas.org.
The AALAS Foundation offers a variety of free posters and brochures for students and teachers, as well as its “Challenge to Care” YouTube video which explores career opportunities in LAS and encourages students to accept the challenge to care by selecting a career in laboratory animal science.
The AALAS Foundation conducts an annual “Celebrate the Mouse Biomedical Research Video Essay” contest for 5th – 12th grade students. Currently in its fifth year, this contest requires students to submit video essays explaining how they, a family member, friend, or pet, have benefited from medical research with a mouse.
The Foundation’s “Celebrate Animal Research and Education” (CARE) program is a three-pronged public awareness program. The goal of this program is to help reach the general public and promote the important role animals play in discovering treatment options, cures, and vaccines for catastrophic diseases. The program began with its “Celebrate the Mouse” campaign grown to include “Celebrate the Pig” and “Celebrate the Monkey”. The program recognizes the role these animals have played in helping advance heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, organ transplant, and COVID-19 research.
The second prong of the CARE program includes the growing collection of free “What’s Happening in Research?” PowerPoint presentations. These speaker-ready presentations are available free upon request from the AALAS Foundation at email@example.com and are helpful resources to include in virtual public outreach meetings.
The third prong of the CARE program is its social media component, the CARE YouTube channel. This channel offers a variety of short videos, which highlight how animals have helped advance medical discoveries and serves as a social media awareness tool, as well, as a resource to assist with virtual public outreach activities.
The AALAS Foundation continues to focus on the development of more digital outreach materials to help ensure that our public outreach mission continues to thrive in a virtual setting. It offers a free “Tips & Resources for Planning a Virtual Public Outreach Event” guide and a sample virtual outreach PowerPoint presentation. The AALAS Foundation is currently planning and developing a virtual Animal Research & Education Awareness (AREA) Program for high school students. This virtual program will accommodate up to 600 high school students across the United States and will serve as a model outreach program for AALAS Branches.
In 12 years of volunteer service to AALAS I have learned many things about this remarkable organization and the members who comprise it. Most inspiring to me is the dedication to and passion for research animals’ welfare. The past 12 months have taxed all of us in different ways, but we can see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for one big reason, and that is because effective vaccines are becoming widely available. This would not have been possible without meaningful contributions to biomedical research teams by innumerable individuals, including many of the over 15,000 AALAS members. I am humbled to be part of the laboratory animal science and research communities; Turns out that Teddy Roosevelt was right.