When the West meets the beautiful East…

By: Lesliam Quiros-Alcala, PhD, MSc
ISES Secretary
ISES member since 2007
Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University Department of Environmental Health and Engineering

This past October 17th-19th, I had the pleasure of representing the ISES Board of Directors at the 2019 ISEE-ISES Asian Chapter Conference, which took place in the beautiful and vibrant city of Daegu, Korea. This year’s theme was Harmonizing Environmental Health Solutions for Individuals, Communities, and the Planet. Dr. Kiyoung Lee and Dr. Ho Kim from Seoul National University led the conference organizing efforts. The conference was a great success, drawing attendance from countries across the globe, including Australia, Spain, Canada, Bulgaria, Sweden, Germany, United States, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, Japan, Malaysia, China, and others with 448 participants! Several themes were addressed in fascinating research sessions, including the effects of climate change on human health, occupational epidemiology, exposures and health effects associated with contaminants in consumer products, air pollution, advances in Asian birth cohort studies, and ongoing work by WHO collaborating centers to name a few.

The line-up of distinguished plenary speakers included, Dr. Antonia Calafat from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 2019 recipient of the ISES Excellence in Exposure Science Award who was adventurous with food at the Seoum Market (see photo), ISEE President Dr. Beate Ritz from the University of California, Los Angeles; Dr. Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Dr. Xiaoming Shi from the Chinese National Institute of Environmental Health; Dr. Eunhee Ha from the Ewha Woman’s University College of Medicine in Korea; Dr. Jim Zhang from Duke University; and yours truly representing the ISES Board of Directors and Johns Hopkins University. All plenary speakers gave exhilarating talks in their respective fields sharing new advances and directions in the field, and lessons learned from their prior research. In celebration of our society’s 30th anniversary and the fact that this was a joint ISES/ISEE conference, I thought this was a fitting opportunity to highlight some of the amazing and groundbreaking work from ISES and ISEE members from across the globe with a focus on vulnerable populations. Challenging task to say the least, given all of the amazing research taking place across the globe!

I also had the pleasure of recognizing two outstanding researchers, Dr. Guofeng Shen from Peking University and Dr. Kraichat Tantrakarnapa from Mahidol University International College in Thailand, with an ISES 30th Anniversary Membership Award. Drs. Shen and Tantrakarnapa were awarded a 1-year membership to ISES in recognition of their contributions to the field of exposure science.

Welcome to ISES, Dr. Shen and Dr. Tantrakarnapa!

Honored to have been there to recognize you both with this award and excited to have you join our global ISES family! Your accomplishments are truly an inspiration to others in the field!

What about the students attending the conference? All of the students who I saw present were great and should be commended for presenting their work and facing tough questions from the audience with such grace. I was also truly humbled and inspired when I had several students approach me throughout the conference and to be able to absorb some of their excitement and thirst for knowledge in our field.

What can I say about the Korean people? Koreans are beautiful, kind, hospitable, intelligent, humble, persistent, hard-working people who are proud of their history and heritage as witnessed every day I was there. Oh, and the food? Well how can you not love Korean food? It is simply mouthwatering and delicious with limitless options even for the most adventurous palates.

I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to Dr. Kiyoung Lee and Dr. Ho Kim for this most gracious invitation and the opportunity to represent ISES at such distinguished event. I would also like to thank the City of Daegu and their office of tourism for their

outstanding hospitality (감사합니다). Finally, I want to humbly end this post with an African Proverb that states,

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

We are clearly all in this field for advancing and protecting public health and it is together we will continue making great strides in this pursuit. Let us continue disseminating our knowledge, guiding students and young researchers, and expanding collaborations across the globe to face current and emerging environmental health challenges impacting us all, including the most vulnerable.