ESDR Academy for Future Leaders in Dermatology: A Springboard for Career Achievement

  • Julien Seneschal
    Correspondence: Julien Seneschal, University of Bordeaux, Dermatology and Pediatric Dermatology, Saint Andre Hospital, 1 Rue Jean Burguet, Bordeaux 33075, France.
    Dermatology and Pediatric Dermatology, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
    Search for articles by this author
      The European Society for Dermatological Research (ESDR) Academy for Future Leaders in Dermatology (FLA) is an excellent opportunity for young dermatologists aiming to pursue and build their academic career under the guidance and mentoring of renowned experts in the field of dermatology, who take the time to share their personal experience and vision. I personally had the chance to participate in the third ESDR Academy that took place in the beautiful historical city of Florence, from 17–19 October, 2013 (Figure 1).
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1ESDR Academy for Future Leaders in Dermatology, Florence, 2013. ESDR, European Society for Dermatological Research.
      I applied for the FLA at a moment I considered as a gap between being a student and becoming an independent researcher trying to develop my own team and research to answer my own questions. This was of course a difficult time with many questions and sources of apprehension and frustration that could be summarized in one simple question: Do I have the capacity to become an independent scientist in the field of dermatology research?
      First things first, I received my board certification in dermatology in 2008 at the University of Bordeaux, France, and then started a PhD program in the field of immunology in Bordeaux working on the immune mechanisms of systemic lupus. This experience gave me the taste to work in translational medicine to identify new pathways and targets that could improve the management of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases. Then, with the support of my mentor, Professor Alain Taieb, I did a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Skin Disease Research Center in Boston, Massachusetts under the guidance of Professor Thomas S. Kupper. For two years, I had the chance to be at the core of a research program dedicated to the newly described population of antigen-experienced T cells known as resident memory T cells, which represented a compelling new view of the skin immune-surveillance concept. It was a great research experience for me, with both the fun of positive results and the frustration of negative experiments that always forced me to question myself.
      Back in Bordeaux in 2011 as an assistant professor of dermatology, I was full of motivation to pursue my academic career with the goal of establishing my own team and doing translational research. Professor Alain Taieb guided me toward the field of pigmentation and vitiligo. However, at that time, despite my medical and research backgrounds, it seemed like a mountain to climb.
      The two and a half days spent at the FLA remain engraved in my memory. Joining a small group of talented scientists gave me the conviction that all these young scientists were in the same boat with similar doubts and questions. One of the strengths of the academy is to associate each mentee with a senior leader in dermatology, the mentor. I personally had the chance to be accompanied by Professor Mauro Picardo, an internationally renowned expert in the field of pigmentation and vitiligo, and close friend of Professor Alain Taieb. I will never forget our discussions and his personal view on his career and how networking could be an excellent opportunity to exchange new ideas, stay abreast with the latest developments, and build collaborations and projects with a fundamental goal in mind: to improve the management of skin diseases. Another strength of the academy is to offer mentees the opportunity to present their own work, mainly undertaken during a PhD program or a postdoctoral fellowship. These discussions were an excellent opportunity to learn what life was like in other labs in Europe, discuss science in an enjoyable and open atmosphere, and get feedback from mentors. In addition, our small group had the chance to listen to some brilliant career stories showcased by mentors like Michel Gilliet, Nick Reynolds, Martin Röcken, or Leena Bruckner-Tuderman, for example. It was really inspiring to learn how renowned experts in their field started their career with similar doubts but with strong motivation. The way they tackled the challenge to obtain their first funding, start their own team and experimental projects with success, but also undeniably with some failures, was really encouraging. All this had made them stronger, and it was a great source of encouragement for us. Finally, one thing to remember: stay focused on your own ideas, make collaborations, and listen to your students. It could just make that great story that gets published in a high-impact journal!
      Lastly, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as the saying goes! Time to visit the beautiful city of Florence after a long day’s work: history, arts, and architecture. That was fantastic. Also, mealtimes were important moments altogether in the company of Thomas Florestan, the executive director of the ESDR!
      Following these two and a half days, focused and pumped with enthusiasm, I established my own research plan and, together with Dr Katia Boniface, assistant professor in therapeutic innovation, we created the immunodermatology lab in Bordeaux, focusing our research on pigmentation and vitiligo. We succeeded in obtaining academic funding and signing industrial partnerships to develop international networks, always with the support of our mentors (Professors Alain Taieb and Mauro Picardo), and to train PhD students and postdoctoral fellows. Most importantly, it is now our turn to be part of this great ESDR adventure, not only as new board members of ESDR but also as organizers of the Future Leaders Academy Symposium during the last ESDR meeting in Bordeaux. It was an amazing meeting that brought together young scientists and invited guests who shared some great stories! In a nutshell, I would simply encourage all young scientists to join ESDR and apply for the FLA meeting for an unforgettable experience, working and playing hard!

      Conflict of Interest

      The author states no conflict of interest.


      This article is published as part of a supplement sponsored by the European Society for Dermatological Research .