Oscar E. Suman, Ph.D., ACSM-CEP®, FACSM
Professor | Shriners Hospitals for Children, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Divided we fall, united we stand. The famous phrase has inspired people around the world for centuries. It speaks volumes to ACSM Fellow Oscar Suman, Ph.D., and inspires his work as a researcher, professor and clinical exercise physiologist. It also drives his commitment to racial, ethnic and professional diversity.
Dr. Suman currently serves as a professor in multiple divisions at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and Shriners Hospitals for Children in Texas. His research focuses on cardiopulmonary physiology, exercise physiology, rehabilitation and burns with research projects centered around exercise-induced effects in individuals with burns and/or trauma. He focuses on using exercise, both acute and long-term training strategies, as a tool to improve the quality of life of patients with severe burns.
Dr. Suman joined ACSM 30 years ago. A few years later he became an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist®. Dr. Suman has dedicated his time and expertise to ACSM, serving as a member of the inaugural Task Force on Diversity Action, the Pronouncement Committee, the Evidence-Based Practice Committee, the SHI on Youth Sports and Health, the Minority Health and Research Special Interest Group, the Pediatric Exercise Physiology Interest Group and as a mentor in the Leadership Diversity and Training Program. He continues to be an integral member of the Diversity Action Committee. Dr. Suman also faithfully attends the annual meeting and participates as member of the Texas Chapter of ACSM.
ACSM staff recently asked Dr. Suman a series of questions to learn more about his work, commitment to diversity and leadership at ACSM and how ACSM membership has helped him.
- Why did you choose a career focused on physiology, rehabilitation and burns?
I chose the field of burns and the application of exercise because exercise directly had the potential for improving the lives of these patients. It was a deviation from bench research or animal research that I had been previously involved in.
- What have been the highlights of your research and work?
Despite a hypermetabolic response to burns, a catabolic state and inactivity-induced weakness, exercise helps to significantly counteract these problems or states. The most fulfilling aspect of my work has been experiencing a child start the exercise program soon after discharge from the hospital, enjoy the program and then at the end of the program, leave stronger mentally and physically, happy and with a renewed sense of normalcy.
- You recently co-authored a paper, The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Leadership and Diversity Training Program (LDTP): Harnessing Mentorship to Diversify Organizational Leadership, with ACSM Fellows Dr. Eduardo Bustamante, Dr. NiCole Keith and Dr. Michael Brown and ACSM staff member Chris Sawyer. Can you tell us about the paper and how you got involved?
Dr. Bustamante kindly invited me to be one of the co-authors. I have served on the Diversity Committee of ACSM for years and worked alongside my colleagues Dr. Keith, Dr. Brown and Chris for numerous years on the LDTP. The paper highlights the large interest and sustained effort that ACSM has put forth to increase diversity in terms of underrepresented minorities (URM) at the student and mentor level. It also reflects the high level of collaboration and integration of professionals within ACSM in carrying such activities onward, and most importantly, maintaining their presence and activity level.
- What originally prompted you to get involved in ACSM’s Leadership and Diversity Training Program (LDTP)?
In 2005, I was asked by ACSM leaders to join a group of ACSM members to help increase diversity via various means and that included the Task Force on Diversity. My involvement also was due to having personally benefitted from initiatives such as this at the NIH, which benefitted me both as a student and as a faculty/researcher. So, I wholeheartedly took advantage of this opportunity to “pay back” the benefits I had received. The LDTP was an excellent way to increase the ethnic and racial diversity of future professionals of the ACSM. Serving as a mentor has been a way to somehow repay or honor the mentors I’ve had in my life. It is a way to share with mentees the experiences I had with mentors such as Jerome Dempsey, Bill Reddan, Fran Nagle, Ken Beck, John Holloszy and David Herndon.
I encourage other members to get involved in the Diversity Committee work, either as a committee member and/or as a mentor to a URM student/junior faculty/fellow.
- You have been involved in diversity efforts with ACSM for 15 years. Why is this work important to you?
Diversity is important to me, not only at the racial, ethnic level, but also at the professional level. It is important to bring all of these qualities and characteristics together. As it is often stated, “divided we fall, united we stand”; to me it is a similar application in diversity. We are diverse in many ways, but united in the best interest of our human highest quality, education level and awareness.
- How has your ACSM membership been of value to you and your career?
I have been involved with ACSM for more than 25 years. As an exercise physiologist, the ACSM membership has allowed me to interact, network and learn from friendly, professional and knowledgeable members in my field, but also other fields related to sports or exercise. Interactions with these colleagues, friends and professionals helped my admiration and respect for them to grow. From these members, I have also learned professional skills and received excellent advice.
- What advice do you have for students or professionals entering the field?
Please seek advice and listen to the experience of other professionals (rookies and veterans) in the field. Try to shadow professionals and try different fields and areas before and after entering the field.
- What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
That I have a sense of good humor.
- Anything else you’d like to add?
I am honored and humbled to be featured in this month’s Meet the Member.
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