New people, new website, new decade: it must be January

There’s something about January. It’s the time to clean out, throw out, add new, and organise everything from kitchen drawers to national governments. For ECLAM, it’s the start of the 20th year since EBVS gave us provisional recognition as a speciality college.

New People

We welcome eight new Diplomates to ECLAM, following the successful completion of their exams in November:

  • Eva Maria Amen, Roche Innovation Centre Basel, Switzerland
  • Corina Berset, University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland
  • Henri Bertrand, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Nora Denk, Roche Innovation Centre Basel, Switzerland
  • Mareike Kron, University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland
  • Elin Manell, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
  • Ruth Williams, GlaxoSmithKline Research & Development, Stevenage, UK
  • Argyro Zacharioudaki, ELPEN Pharmaceutical Company, Attica, Greece

Congratulations on the achievement! All our new Diplomates are settling into their new committee assignments, and will contribute significantly to the growth and development of ECLAM and lab animal medicine.

The ECLAM Council regrets the departure of Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga as President-elect, but she is focusing her considerable energy on evidence-based laboratory animal science. Stephan Zeiter has taken her place, and will become President from 2021-22. Stephan has already served for four years on Council. His experience and enthusiasm for progress keep our Council moving forward and striving to do better.

In November, Merel received a royal decoration (Officier in the Orde van Oranje-Nassau) recognising the importance of her work for society. Her increased work responsibilities mean that she has had to refocus her attention and energy.

Our 2020 AGM will be held in November in Lausanne, so we will elect a new Ordinary Member in the coming months. The Nominations Committee has been formed (Chair Thea Fleischmann, Denis Lambrigts and Henri Bertrand). You will receive an email from them shortly asking you to consider who would be a good candidate for this opportunity. Self-nominations are welcome.

New website

Our new website (eclam.eu) has been ‘live’ for a few months, and we are phasing out the old one as we create new pages. Keep checking back to see what new material is there to help you understand ECLAM and participate in the affairs of the College.

The new website is more interactive, and I am incorporating it into my way of assisting you. Having trouble understanding the workflow involved in your re-certification? I made a chart. Need to ask a colleague to complete a letter of reference? Here’s an online form.  Want to have a way to meet other residents or Diplomates, download the new AVMA Guidelines, do committee work, or discuss starting a residency programme? Ask to join a Group. Wondering what learning opportunities are forthcoming, or when your next committee teleconference will be? Here’s the calendar. Looking for a new job, or have one open? Post it on our website.   

We need your help to add new material, suggest better ways to find information, and extend our reach outside the College to the public, regulators, and veterinary students. Send me a comment and I promise to listen to your ideas.

I wish you all a very successful and productive 2020, and I look forward to hearing from you. My next task will be to figure out how to enable MailChimp to notify you whenever a news item is posted here!

Janet Rodgers, Secretariat

 

 

 

    


ECLAM is shedding its previous website and emerging at a new URL with a new design.

We started with long discussions about why our old website wasn’t doing the job properly. Some of the reasons were technical: we couldn’t change the underlying colours, fonts and widgets, and we didn’t have a secure site (one that starts with https instead of http). Mostly it was because the underlying navigational structure wasn’t helping people find what they needed. 

Following guidance from a course offered by a non-profit, Council approved a website redesign group to try to re-imagine a new site. Funds were tight, as always, and we believed we could do a credible job on our own, using open-source software and free images, saving the College tens of thousands in the process.

The College is indebted to the working group (Argyro, Corina, Eva, Cristian, Miriam, Stéphanie, and Greg) for giving countless hours, for caring enough to keep working at it, and for their continuing work to develop content and test the site. We are also grateful to the focus group (Stephan, Nora, Rony, Ivanela and Patricia) for providing fresh insights on our ideas.

Of course, it took longer than planned. The holidays, the exams, the challenge of learning new software, and the business of living and working all got in our way. Once we had gathered information from interviews, looked at the flow of visitors to our site, and discussed our ideas in biweekly teleconferences, we created ‘personas’: fictitious people with names and backgrounds who might all be our visitors. Our personas helped us see what the website needed to do from many different points of view.

We worked on various ideas for the home page layout, trying to keep visitors engaged past the initial 15 seconds that most visitors spend on a new site. Then we selected WordPress to be the engine (the Content Management System). WordPress is free, easy to learn, and has massive capabilities for future growth and evolution. Our goal was to make the new site mobile-friendly, easier to navigate, and ultimately to grow the College.

In 2019 we had a photo contest to recruit help in getting high-quality photographs of ECLAM in action. Images create the setting for every page or block. They make the content more interesting, like adding a song to lyrics. This was fun, and we received numerous entries, most of which are already in use on the new site. As we seem to be somewhat shy, most of our photos are of animals– no surprise there. If you can manage it, please keep sending us photos, especially of real people doing the really interesting things we do. We have a duty to educate.

The total cost to date is less than €500. Ongoing expenses will include the monthly cost of a hosting service, and some cost to buy widgets and security apps and other ‘plugins’ that we use to power the site without having to become programmers ourselves. Otherwise, the Secretariat will continue to keep the site updated with ECLAM news, policies and information. A website is worthless if the content isn’t engaging and useful.

The ECLAM website is our only public-facing entity. Much of it is still in the development phases, so keep coming back to see what’s new. Browse around everywhere, try out the clickable diagrams, and ask other people what they think. If you have comments and suggestions, hit the ‘Contact Us’ button and send us a message to let us know how we’re doing. A website like ours conveys our vision to the world and serves our members.  If it doesn’t accurately reflect who we are, we can fix it– but only if you speak up and offer to help.

Streamlining and improving access

The Constitution and Bylaws of the College are definitely not a set of dusty forgotten files, at least not for the Council and Secretariat. The original documents have been amended many times over the years, each time requiring a more than ⅔ vote of those present to approve them. 

Some amendments have been made because our parent organisation, the EBVS, required changes of all Colleges in order to both harmonise and improve the quality of the management of the organisation. An appeals process, for example, was clearly delineated a few years ago to ensure that we knew how to handle potential challenges to an official College decision.

Of the amendments made over the past 5 years, those involving the dreaded publication requirements have incurred the most discussion among the Diplomates. We try to reflect the core values of our members, while encouraging residents to attain the qualification. But EBVS is clear that specialists in veterinary medicine must contribute to the body of knowledge in their disciplines, and the most acceptable way to do that is to conduct research and publish in the journals.

Meanwhile, as veterinarians are being asked to do more with less regardless of where they work, we find it difficult to get sufficient volunteers to serve the needs of our growing College. We try to strike a balance between asking for too much time to serve on committees or Council and the need to retain corporate memory to maintain leadership stability. New Diplomates should feel that they are needed in positions of leadership, and to start participating in the affairs of the College from the beginning of their tenure. Without their enthusiasm and fresh ideas the College will not continue to advance.

2019 brings yet another crop of amendments to be considered, and the ballots have been sent out. By October we will have counted the votes and put new procedures in place to keep ECLAM the action-oriented, enthusiastic organisation it has always been. 2020 will mark our 20th year; may we all commit ourselves to  supporting our mission for many years to come.

For the past few days I’ve been reading and hearing about some exciting news: the microbiome may affect neurologic disease like ALS. This news has popped up on my local public radio station, my Twitter feed, the weekly AVMA news, and as of this morning, the EARA newsletter. Somebody, I’m thinking, has a great public relations department!

And so when I saw it again on the EARA newsletter, I took the bait and clicked. Turns out the news is from the Weizmann Institute in Jerusalem. One of the co-authors is Alon Harmelin, a de facto member of ECLAM since 2003 and formerly the chair of the Training Committee.  Alon currently supervises two residents, with a third scheduled to sit the examinations this year.

The research, which was published in Nature on 22 July, describes extensive experiments using mice transgenic for the human SOD1 (G93A) mutation on a C57BL/6J background. The mice have a shortened lifespan and develop hindlimb paralysis, and are a recognised model for ALS. The authors show that they also have a unique microbiome compared to wild-type littermates. After a lengthy series of experiments, they identified Akkermansia muciniphila as a source of nicotinamide, which improved motor signs in the mice on Rotarod and grip-strength testing as well as neurologic exam. In a small cohort of human ALS patients, a similar correlation with nicotinamide levels and possibly even the same bacterial species was identified. 

Congratulations to Prof Harmelin and his staff on helping to bring this significant research to fruition! We hope it results someday in improved treatments for people with Lou Gehrig’s disease.