A Brief History of the Association of Biochemistry Educators (ABE)
The ABE evolved, over the course of a decade, from the Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry (AMGDB), an organization comprised of departmental chairs that addresses the many facets of advanced science education and biomedical research at academic institutions. The ABE remains indebted to the AMGDB for its vision and continued support that has enabled the ABE to develop and thrive. In 2007, curricular revision was promoting integration, and the role of biochemistry in medical education was in flux. Student-centered teaching modalities were also being adopted, and many faculty did not understand their utility. The AMGDB identified the need to support the improvement of medical biochemistry teaching and to provide a forum for their course directors to learn from each other. Charged with these goals, an 8-member working group of chairs and their course directors, led by Paul Weigel (then AMGDB President), organized the 1st Medical Biochemistry Education Strategies Workshop, which convened from April 26-30, 2008, in Myrtle Beach, SC. This inaugural meeting fostered a kinship among the 79 faculty educators in attendance who represented institutions from North America and the Caribbean. A name for the fledgling organization was adopted, the Association of Biochemistry Course Directors (ABCD).
Armed with enthusiasm and feedback from inaugural meeting participants, an eight-member committee, comprised entirely of course directors and led by newly appointed ABCD Chair Janet Lindsley, organized the 2nd Medical Biochemistry Education Strategies Workshop, which convened from April 25-29, 2009, in Myrtle Beach, SC. During this meeting, the first ABCD-driven initiative, Developing Biochemistry Competencies & Learning Objectives for Students of the Health Care Professions, was born. The ABCD decided thereafter to hold biennial, rather than annual meetings, to enable leadership committees to develop more robust meeting agendas and to enhance the outreach of the organization. In March 2010, elected Webmaster, David Franklin, developed and launched the official ABCD website, which became an invaluable resource for biochemistry educators worldwide.
Led by Chair Peter Ronner, the six-member ABCD Executive Committee (ABCDEx) organized the Teaching Biochemistry to Students of Medicine, Dentistry & Pharmacy, 3rd International Conference of the ABCD, which convened from April 30-May 4, 2011, in Myrtle Beach SC. The meeting title reflected a desire to include and represent faculty teaching biochemistry in each of the three health professions disciplines and was adopted as the conference theme for future meetings. During this conference of 90 educators representing 77 institutions from North America and the Caribbean, the group extended the Developing Biochemistry Competencies & Learning Objectives for Students of the Health Care Professions initiative. Biochemistry topics were evaluated for their importance in health professions curricula through pre-meeting member surveys. Ensuing collegial discussions at the meeting led to a consensus about the most important biochemistry knowledge that medical students should demonstrate. Working groups produced a set of overarching competencies, mapped to Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education competency domains, which was approved by conference attendees and later published in Medical Science Educator.1 The working groups then developed learning objectives that were edited and linked to the medical biochemistry competencies by members collaborating in focus groups after the meeting. The product of this effort became a member resource available on the organization website. At the close of the third ABCD conference, the leadership committee began a scholarly tradition to enhance ABCD visibility, the publication of each conference meeting report in Medical Science Educator. Links to this publication and other meeting reports are found on the website Conference tab.
The next two ABCD meetings were held in Santa Fe, NM. Richard Sabina, led the 12-member ABCDEx, in organizing the 4th International Conference of the ABCD, which convened May 5-9, 2013. This meeting, comprised of 102 faculty educators from 90 institutions, included a morning session dedicated to Pharmacy education when topics, objectives and competencies more specific to pharmacy trainees were developed. Educational scholarship became a major meeting focus, and attendees were introduced to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)-sponsored MedEdPORTAL for publishing peer-reviewed educational resources and were recruited to serve as peer reviewers. In the meeting survey, 70% of respondents indicated that they had accessed the biochemistry competencies and/or learning objectives from the ABCD website, evidence of the value of these resources to members.
Led by Chair Neil Osheroff, the 13-member ABCDEx organized the 5th International Conference of the ABCD, which convened May 3–7, 2015. The themes of curricular integration, the transition from teacher to educator, and educational scholarship were emphasized. The concept of a standardized metabolic map was introduced and discussed for its possible use as a National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) reference for US medical licensure exam step 1 (USMLE Step 1). An ad hoc committee was established and interested participants were recruited to further development and dissemination of the map. Several additional initiatives arose from this meeting. In light of the fact that curricular integration was significantly decreasing the number of free-standing medical biochemistry courses, the seeds of a name change for the organization to the Association of Biochemistry Educators were planted. In addition, the idea of membership dues, with an eye toward eventual independence of the Organization was raised. Finally, a Professional Mentoring Initiative was established to promote member career development.
Under the leadership of Eric Niederhoffer in 2016, the ABCD was transformed into the Association of Biochemistry Educators (ABE) as an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The ABE Board of Directors established Bylaws for the organization that included membership classifications, the nomination and elections process for Board members, and the roles of the Board officers. Annual dues were initiated to financially support the ABE mission. The ABE Board also adopted a new plan to alternate east coast and west coast venues for future meetings.
Mr. Niederhoffer led the 13-member ABE Board in organizing the first joint meeting of the organization with another group of medical educators. Teaching Biochemistry and Genetics to Students of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Dentistry, 6th International Conference of the ABE, convened May 7-11, 2017 in Clearwater Beach, FL, and was attended by over 115 educators representing more than 86 institutions. The meeting included a day of overlapping sessions with the Medical School Genetics Course Directors Special Interest Group of the Association of Professors of Human and Medical Genetics (APHMG), a collaboration that originated in 2011 when APHMG members attended the ABCD meeting in Myrtle Beach. Members participated in a workshop to develop questions utilizing the Pathways of Human Metabolism Map, a project led and guided by ABE members in conjunction with Stanford University and the NBME since the 2015 meeting. Additionally, the ABE Board established working groups for finance, membership, and professional development, enabling more efficient management of ABE affairs and expanding the volunteer opportunities within the organization. Finally, the ABE Distinguished Service Award was established. The initial recipients of the award included all of the Past-Chairs of the ABCDEx as well as the outgoing President of the ABE.
Since the 2017 meeting, working groups of members have been busy enhancing ABE member resources, including a searchable Question Bank, an enhanced Professional Mentoring Initiative, and a new Collaboration Network, among other ongoing projects. These resources are highlighted on the ABE website which was launched in February 2018 and updated in 2019. Through these efforts, the ABE demonstrates dedication to its core values of effective teaching in biochemistry, communication and collaboration between educators and educational researchers, and the transformation of teaching of biochemistry to educational scholarship.