Here are some questions and answers from our interview with TOS Fellow Richard L. Atkinson, MD, FTOS, Distinguished Professor and Clinical Professor of Pathology at Virginia Commonwealth University; and Director of the Obetech Obesity Research Institute.
Q: What is your title and organizational affiliation?
A: I am a Distinguished Professor and Clinical Professor of Pathology at Virginia Commonwealth University. I am also Director of the Obetech Obesity Research Institute. I attended Virginia Military Institute and Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, VA.
Q: Can you tell us about your current work and your professional developmental trajectory?
A: My interests are obesity research and patient care, obesity policy, and young investigator programs nationally and internationally. Recently, my research has focused on virus-induced obesity. We demonstrated that human adenovirus (Adv36) produces obesity in animals and is associated with obesity in humans. I started Young Investigator competitions for NAASO/TOS (as it is currently organized), Society for Clinical Nutrition, and the World Obesity Federation. Young people are the future of our Society and of science/medicine. We should do everything possible to help them succeed.
Q: What is one of your professional or personal qualities that has contributed to your success?
A: Integrity. Do the right thing, even if it is not personally beneficial. Take care of those under you.
Q: What advice do you have for today's junior obesity researchers?
A: Learn all you can about how to be successful. There are things you know you don't know, but a lot of things about succeeding in academics/research that you don't even know exist. Constantly seek guidance from more established scientists and mentors and ask about how to succeed. When you plan research, plan important things, not "so what" research.
Q: What aspects of obesity research are the most exciting to you right now?
A: Understanding the various etiologies of obesity and developing personalized treatments, probably mostly pharmacological, to treat obesity. Drugs that simulate obesity surgery will be developed and will dramatically improve obesity treatment and remove the need for surgery.
Q: What are your favorite things to do when you're not at work?
A: I like to read, walk, golf, and travel to foreign countries and learn about the people there.