Meet a Member - Alan M. Hoberman, PhD, DABT, ATS

hoberman.jpgHow does one find their career path and their mentors? I think if you surveyed most of your colleagues, they would agree no one could have predicted that they would have ended up where they did. My career in teratology started by chance when my co-op coordinator at Drexel University needed a second interviewee for a six month co-op position at McNeil Laboratories, a subsidiary of J&J. McNeil’s policies required two persons to be interviewed. Being a freshman and the other interviewee being a senior, he was supposed to get the job, but McNeil wanted someone who could possible spend more than six month on the job.   

That co-op position in 1971 in the Safety Assessment Department introduced me to the relatively new field of teratology. It provided me the opportunity to work for five years at the technical level learning how to conduct reproductive and developmental toxicology studies in rodents and rabbits under the mentorship of Mildred Christian. In 1974, we even conducted the first juvenile toxicity every requested by the FDA but as luck would have it, the FDA reviewer who requested the work had left the agency by the time the study was submitted and juvenile toxicology was not rediscovered until the 1990s. Working at McNeil also introduced me to the Middle Atlantic Reproductive and Teratology Association (MARTA) composed of all the academic, industrial and governmental researchers on the East Coast trying to figure out how to prevent another thalidomide tragedy. Finally I also got to meet many of the early founding members of the Teratology Society and attend my first Teratology Society Meeting in 1975. 

Realizing fairly quickly with a BS degree that if I wanted to progress in the field I would need a graduate education. I applied to three of the principle centers of teratologic research in the US. Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. At the age of 22 it was time to leave home and who would not love to live in Charlottesville. After a year at UVA, the major professor that I had picked to work with, Dr. Joan Spyker-Cranmer was moving to the University of Arkansas and the National Center for Toxicological Research. Moving to Arkansas was never in my plans but the opportunity to focus on the field of interdisciplinary toxicology added some much to my basic understanding abnormal development. 

Graduating from U of A for Medical Sciences, I was able to return to the world of industrial/ regulatory teratology by accepting a job as a Study Director and head of Reproductive Toxicology at Hazleton Laboratories in Vienna Virginia. After a few years at Hazelton, I received a call from my former colleagues at McNeil who had recently started a new company totally dedicated to reproduction and developmental toxicology, Argus Research Laboratories, which today is Charles River Horsham. 

Being in industry and a regulatory environment, pure research on specific molecules was not possible, but we do have the ability to introduce new methodology and improve our standard methods. I also had the opportunity to give back to those who mentored me by participating in and supporting the Teratology Society, MARTA and the Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Specialty Section (RDTSS). This has led me to be the President of both MARTA and RDTSS and currently the President of the Teratology Society. I have also made sure that I have been active on various committees in each of these groups. Now after working for over 45 years in the field, it is time to ensure that we have well trained and knowledgeable young scientists continuing to enter our field. The only way I know to do this is by mentoring those at Charles River and helping to make sure that the Teratology Society has the resources it needs to move our science forward.  

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