History

Original Author: Mildred S. Christian, PhD, Fellow ATS; edited and updated by the ATS Board of Directors (September 2013)

Introduction

The Academy of Toxicological Sciences (ATS) was established in 1981 to assure, through in-depth peer review of professional qualifications of toxicology practitioners, high quality, objective, and unbiased understanding and interpretation of toxicity data developed for the protection of public health ATS was created for the purpose of creating a system for recognizing the qualifications of both generators and interpreters of databases related to the toxicity and safety of chemical substances. ATS certifies toxicologists who are internationally identifiable, based on peer-review by a Board of Directors, and who exemplify a high standard of qualifications in the field. Thus, ATS, through a deliberate peer-review process of credentials, ATS ensuring a high standard of professional experience and practice for toxicology professionals engaged in the generation and translation of toxicology data and information to protection of human health.

This brief history begins with Dr. Mildred Christian’s personal recollections of the founding and development of ATS. Like any history, it is biased by the original writer and further by the various Board members who have edited and supplemented since its creation. It is intended to provide the reader an overview of the Academy and also some insight into the people participating in the Academy and the way the Academy has changed in some of its aspects over time. Any errors or omissions are unintentional and entirely the fault of the authors.

Founding of the Academy

In 1981, regulatory toxicology, and to some extent, scientific inquiry, was experiencing difficulties because instances of fraud in industry and academia created a crisis of confidence. A revolution in professional societies ensued regarding development of “Codes of Ethics” and “Professional Standards”, elements that were considered inherent prior to this upheaval. The overall result was, among other things, requirements for national and international “Good Laboratory Practices,” or as more commonly identified, “GLP’s.”

Certification for toxicologists was not generally considered necessary before this event. Until then, the only “Certified” or “Boarded” participants in the drug development process were the “Board Certified Veterinary Pathologists.” The first draft of the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) GLPs identified that toxicologists and other participants in studies used to support development of a registered pharmaceutical product would need to be certified. Such certification became controversial, and ultimately, this requirement was not included in the final US FDA document. Good Laboratory Practice Regulations; Final Rule. 21 CFR Part 58).

Many experts, particularly in academic areas of toxicology, where regulatory issues were of little interest, considered it inappropriate to have certification by an examination (an approach adopted by the American Board of Toxicology in 1980). Such experts considered such an examination to be demeaning, that they had no qualified peers, and, that society membership and participation identified interested and qualified professionals. It should be noted that this was a time when as many as six letters of recommendation were required for membership in the Society of Toxicology, interviews commonly occurred before membership acceptance in some societies, e.g., the Teratology Society, and there was considerable animosity between academia, government and industry.

The ATS owes its birth to the American College of Toxicology (ACT) because ACT was the first professional society to accept the regulatory needs of toxicologists in industry and government as also relevant to the field. Thus, this peer-review certification, like that conferred by the ATS, was formed in part in reaction to the perceived lack of response of the Society of Toxicology and other professional societies to the ethical issues and environmental concerns that arose in the 1980s.

The following quote is from a June 26, 1980, letter from Dr. Joseph F. Borzelleca, ACT President-Elect, and chairman of the Task Force on Professional Standards, of the American College of Toxicology to Council and documents the beginning of the Academy.

“The rapid development of the science of Toxicology has prompted the need to assure uniformly high standards in the understanding and interpretation of toxicity data developed for the protection of public health. The identification of qualified individuals meeting these high standards is of prime importance. Recognizing this, the President, Dr. Irving Selikoff, has made it one of the highest priorities of the American College of Toxicology. A Task Force was established (roster attached) to address this issue.” Members of this Task Force are identified below.

  • Dr. Joseph F. Borzelleca
  • Dr. Robert P. Giovacchini
  • Dr. Joseph V. Rodricks
  • Dr. Sorell L. Schwartz
  • Dr. Christopher O. Schonwalder
  • Dr. Robert G. Tardiff

Needless to say, Dr. Joseph Borzelleca and the other Task Force members were active in founding the Academy. Although never serving as President, Dr. Borzelleca served as an ATS Councilor for almost 15 years.

Origin of Name

Dr. Bob Tardiff was the one who named the organization, and both Dr. Joe Borzelleca and Dr. Bob Giovacchini endorsed it. The "Academy" was meant to underscore the Scholarship of the organization through its members, and the “Toxicological Sciences” represented Bob’s vision of the recognition of the numerous specialties developing and maturing within the field of toxicology (it also served to counter the view held by some that ATS should be solely for “generalists”).

Use of “Diplomate” vs “Fellow”

Originally, certificates identified those elected to membership as “Diplomates,” but, when this designation became commonly used for many certifications, some of which did not include peer-review, the title was changed to “Fellow.” This occurred primarily at the suggestion of Dr. Arthur Furst, one of the first individuals certified and at the time, a member of the ATS Board of Directors, when Dr. Don Gardner was President.

Official Form for Identification

Several different identification forms have been used, and it was recognized that standardization was needed in order to ensure recognition. In a board meeting in 2000, it was officially recommended (and discussed at the ensuing annual meeting) that there were two possible forms for use: 1) Fellow, ATS; and 2) F.A.T.S. (with periods after each letter). This information was distributed to all Fellows along with the membership list. That designation was changed in 2013 to simply “ATS.”

Board and Officers

Early elections were based on only one candidate for any office, as the office was considered to be an honor and responsibility, and it was considered inappropriate to place potential candidates in opposition to one another. Beginning in 1995, two candidates were nominated by the nominating committee for each office, with the exception of Secretary/Treasurer. This exception was made because service in this office required that the candidate agree to supply the administrative support for the Academy, which included secretarial and mailing services, copying services and conference calls.

The Academy is forever indebted to those Fellows and their corporations who provided the administrative services to the Academy before it attained its current financial status. These are noted below.

Holders of the Office of Secretary/Treasurer

1981–1994 Dr. Robert G. Tardiff (personal support)
1994–1998 Dr. David J. Brusick (assisted by Ms. Diane Sheehan)
Hazleton Laboratories (now Covance)
1998–2006 Dr. Mildred S. Christian (assisted by Ms. Marjorie A. Vargo)
Argus Research Laboratories (now Charles River Preclinical Services, Pennsylvania)
2006–2009 Dr. Marion Ehrich
2009–2012 Dr. Peter L. Goering
2012–2015 Dr. Lois D. Lehman-McKeeman

Nominations were originally made by the Past President and his/her appointed committee. The currently ongoing constitutional revisions are addressing a more formal and open nomination process that will include more participation by the general membership. Until 1994, the Board of Directors met quarterly to review applications, usually in Bethesda, Maryland, at The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), an interaction originally facilitated by Dr. Myron Mehlman, one of the first Diplomates. As travel funding became limited, and applications increased in number, the Board has held more frequent meetings by conference calls.

Each president and council (board) had an impact on the Academy reflecting their personal styles and affiliations. However, regardless of the individual members of the Board, all applications were always reviewed by each member, and the total scores and individual attributes of each applicant were considered. Rejection of any applicant always required consensus of the entire Board, and any letter of rejection always provided information regarding areas for improvement. The list of Presidents and the Board Members who served demonstrates the high level of expertise inherent in the Fellows of the Academy.

Presidents

1981–1987 Dr. Robert P. Giovacchini*
1987–1990 Dr. John P. Frawley*
1990–1991 Dr. George J. Levinskas*
1991–1993 Dr. Charles L. Winek
1993–1994 Dr. Edwin V. Buehler
1994–1995 Dr. Robert G. Tardiff
1995–1996 Dr. Emil A. Pfitzer*
1996–1997 Dr. Mildred S. Christian*
1997–1998 Dr. Gordon W. Newell
1998–1999 Dr. Robert Snyder
1999–2000 Dr. Donald E. Gardner
2000–2001 Dr. John A. Thomas
2001–2002 Dr. A. Wallace Hayes
2002–2003 Dr. Judith A. Graham
2003–2004 Dr. James A. Popp
2004–2005 Dr. Janice E. Chambers
2005–2006 Dr. Sidney Green
2006–2007 Dr. William Slikker Jr.
2007–2008 Dr. Charlene A. McQueen
2008–2009 Dr. Glenn Sipes
2009–2010 Dr. Barbara D. Beck
2010–2011 Dr. William Brock
2011–2012 Dr. James S. Bus
2012–2013 Dr. James C. Lamb IV
2013–2014 Dr. Peter L. Goering

* Deceased

Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting of the members has been traditionally held at a dinner occurring during the Annual Society of Toxicology Meeting. More recently (since the late 2000's), a reception has been held instead of a dinner). In 1994, Dr. Bob Tardiff designed and then presented the members with the official lapel pin of the Academy. A pin is now presented to each new Fellow along with the first Certificate. In the early meetings, there was often some entertainment, and few of us will ever forget Dr. Charlie Winek’s “Presidential address.” ┬áSeveral members annually promised to perform as a string quartet, although the complexities of carrying instruments have resulted in this never materializing. Essentially all ladies present as guests until the mid-1990’s were Fellow’s wives, and traditionally, for at least the first five years, they were presented with roses. As more women were accepted into the Academy, this practice was discontinued, although accompanying wives sometimes continued to appear surprised when certification or re-certification documents were presented to women whom they had assumed were accompanying persons. It has now become common for a few accompanying husbands to attend. With time, the entire membership has become representative of the gender and minority memberships of the professional societies.

In addition to the required business meeting, other activities usually occur including: 1) wearing of formal attire at the dinner, an activity first suggested by President Emil A. Pfitzer in 1995, and endorsed as denoting our very special status; 2) providing ribbons to new members to wear, to make them easily identifiable for welcoming into the Academy, first suggested by Dr. John Thomas in 2000; 3) collection of names for potential membership, also first suggested by Dr. John Thomas; 4) passing of the gavel to the incoming president and presentation of a plaque to the outgoing president. By 2010, the dinner has been replaced with a reception that includes presentation of the Mildred S. Christian Career Achievement Award.

Membership Demographics

Early membership was essentially all male, primarily academic and limited to men in “General Toxicology.” Applications from individuals in specialized fields, such as teratology, risk assessment, phototoxicology, genetic toxicology and epidemiology, were rejected. Beginning in 1994, then President Bob Tardiff led the Board in amending the original position and accepting applications of international experts in specialized areas of toxicology. Generally, such experts were members of one or more professional toxicology organizations as well as a specialized professional society. One criterion generally expected was that the individual would have held the Office of President in a professional society. Review of the membership of the Academy demonstrates the remarkable number of Past Presidents of the Society of Toxicology, American College of Toxicology, European Toxicology Society, Teratology Society, Society for Risk Analysis, and Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society who are Fellows.

With recognition that membership was limited to approximately 150 individuals, in 2000, President John Thomas made a formal effort to increase membership, both by publicizing the Academy and its activities at professional societies, and by contacting screened individuals for interest in membership. These activities resulted in an increase in membership to approximately 180 individuals. The Academy also began an annual contribution of $1000 to the American College of Toxicology at that time, for two student travel awards it has sponsored a lecture or debate at the European Society of Toxicology on a bi-annual basis. By 2010, ATS was supporting various meetings and sessions on an as-needed basis.

Exclusivity

As shown in the growth chart, the initial group of 14 Diplomates grew to a total of 268 Fellows who have been certified between 1982 and 2013.

Demographics

As of the most recent count, there are 227 men and 41 women. Although the majority of the active Fellows are from the United States, active Fellows also are from Australia (1), Canada (6), Denmark (1), France (3), Germany (5), India (3), Italy (2), Japan (1), South Korea (1), New Zealand (1), Nigeria (1), Norway, (1), Sweden (1), Switzerland (1), Turkey (1), and the United Kingdom (7).

Current Status

At the time of this writing, the day-to-day administrative responsibilities rest with AIM, Inc. which manages various toxicology-related societies. The Board has focused on attracting new and highly-qualified Fellows, improvements in the application form and in the review scoring process. Recertification is also getting more attention as the Fellows mature in their careers.