About the Sun Valley Workshop



    The overall objective of the Sun Valley Workshop is to improve understanding across the many disciplines that study muscloskeletal biology and the prevention/treatment of disease. This is important for all scientists, but particularly important for younger scientists, who because of the breadth of information available now may feel a need to focus within a small area of skeletal biology.

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    • To work toward a multidisciplinary basic and clinical synthesis of molecular, tissue and biomechanical processes in bone that help us to understand the pathogenesis of bone disease as well as its prevention and treatment
    • To apply basic science concepts to clinical problems, and develop a dialogue between basic and clinical investigators
    • To provide a forum for student training and the opportunity in a small group setting for junior scientists to talk with more senior scientists

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    Workshop Format

    The Sun Valley Workshop on Skeletal Biology is distinguished from other conferences in several respects:

    • This is truly a workshop, not simply a forum for the presentation new data. The workshop format is evident from the incorporation of tutorial sessions that involve both junior and senior scientists.
    • The workshop format is also evident in that only 50% of the session time is devoted to speakers, and 50% is devoted to discussion. Speakers are instructed to provide some background to bring all workshop participants to a basic level of understanding, to provide some new data that is hopefully provocative, and to suggest directions/experiments for the future. The sessions are organized to address the following questions: 

    What is the problem?

    What do we need to know to solve the problem?

    What are the appropriate experiments to get this information?

    In addition, the session chairs are instructed to develop and distribute relevant questions for discussion prior to the session.

    • The workshop is organized along the lines of the Gordon Conferences. The workshop involves a small group of junior and senior scientists, usually fewer than 150, which allows for productive discussion and also the opportunity for junior scientists to "rub elbows" with more senior scientists. To provide the latter, sessions are organized in the mornings and evenings only, with afternoons free for informal discussion.

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    The Workshop

    • Has a long and successful history of training of industry and academic scientists in quantitative study of musculoskeletal diseases.
    • Serves an important function in the field.
    • Has been successful in promoting interdisciplinary communication.
    • Has evolved into an important component of the fabric of the musculoskeletal community.
    • Is a major venue for studying the physiology of animal models used to study metabolic bone disease.
    • Grew out of an attempt to provide multidisciplinary training to younger scientists. Over the past 3 years, students and fellows have comprised about 15% of the total number of participants, while junior faculty members and investigators have constituted 30-35% of the total participants.

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    Future Workshop Dates

    2013-  August 4-7

    2014-  August 3-6

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    Workshop History

    The Sun Valley Workshops on Skeletal Biology grew out of an NIDR-sponsored training program for dental students. It has always emphasized active participation of junior faculty and students (both graduate and postdoctoral), and continues to do so. The Workshop began in 1965 with support from the NIDR (Mineralized Tissues of Interest to Dentistry, 1964-1974) for summer workshops for dental students interested in doing dental-related research. Each summer, several students would visit Salt Lake City to work in Prof. W.S.S. Jee's laboratory to learn some of the newer techniques for studying bone. After a couple of months of work, a small cohort of experts in skeletal biology were invited as visiting faculty to lecture to the students, and then to listen to and critique the work performed during the summer by the students. The students presented their work and discussed its possible implications. The first workshop included six faculty (W.S.S. Jee, Harold Frost, Lent Johnson, Roy Talmage, Leonard Belanger and Richard Greulich) and 9 students (5 summer dental students and 4 graduate students; one of the dental students was W. Eugene Roberts who is now an internationally recognized academic orthodontist; Don Kimmel and Tom Wronski were also graduates of the program). The following year, there were eight faculty (Jee, Frost, Jim Arnold, Robert Heaney, Roy Talmage, Harold Copp, Edgar Tonna and Howard Suzuki) with about 25 participants. Attendance at subsequent workshops increased to a maximum of 196 at the 27th Workshop in 1997, and 115 at the 30th Workshop in 2000.

    The success of the workshops stimulated Prof. Jee to generate support from the pharmaceutical industry and the implant and medical device manufacturers once support from the NIH ended. The Workshops were moved to their current venue in Sun Valley, ID in 1969, and have become highly identified with that location.

    The Workshops last 4 days and always emphasize interdisciplinary communication. Participants at most of the last 20 Workshops included one or more anatomists, anthropologists, biomechanicians, biochemists, cell biologists, dentists and maxillofacial surgeons, endocrinologists, geneticists, gerontologists, internists, mathematicians, molecular biologists, orthopaedic surgeons, pathologists, pediatricians, pharmacologists, physicists, rheumatologists and sports medicine experts. They included one or more people involved in human, dental and veterinary medicine and research, and a good mix of students and senior investigators, both women and men. All Workshops have had active participation from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, as well as both clinical and basic science University faculty.

    The Workshops are unusual in that discussion time equals or exceeds time allotted for formal presentation. Formal presentations are purposely short (15-30 min), and time is set aside each day to allow informal exchanges among the participants. As part of their registration, each participant receives a proceedings that includes extended abstracts, addresses of participants and the schedule of sessions. In addition, distribution of ancillary handouts is encouraged.

    Program content has changed over the years to reflect changes in methods and interests in skeletal clinical and basic science fields. Early Workshops concentrated heavily on the development and applications of dynamic histomorphometry, the bone effects of hormones, calcium, vitamin D and nutrition and experimental design. Later Workshops focused on hard tissue healing, metabolic bone disease (including osteoporosis and osteoarthritis), the regulation of skeletal physiology, and the roles of biomechanics in skeletal development and disorders.

    Historically, these Workshops have had an impact on the study of skeletal physiology and disorders. They formed the genesis of such concepts and techniques as dynamic histomorphometry, quantum concept of bone turnover, the BMU as the functional unit in bone, strain-feedback mechanisms, and cyclic treatments for osteoporosis, to name only a few. Relationships and concepts first presented and critiqued at these Workshops were subsequently incorporated into nearly every discipline that currently works on skeletal problems.

    It is widely recognized that the Sun Valley Workshops have had a major impact on scientific thinking in the field of skeletal biology particularly in areas related to histomorphometry, in vivo animal models, and biomechanics.


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    International Bone and Mineral Society (IBMS)
    330 N Wabash, Suite 1900, Chicago, IL 60611 - USA
    Phone: +1 312-321-5113   |   Fax: +1 312-673-6934   |   Email: