Launched in 2003, the American Society of Hematology’s (ASH) Minority Recruitment Initiative (MRI) is celebrating 20 years of achievement in training and developing leaders in hematology from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. ASH’s portfolio of MRI programs spans six research and educational awards that support medical students, residents, graduate students, fellows, and early-career clinicians and researchers. This month, ASH Clinical News connected with several past MRI awardees and asked them to reflect on their experiences in the MRI, the takeaways, and what advice they have for early-career hematologists from similar backgrounds.
Margo R. Rollins, MD
Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center,
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Minority Medical Student Award Program (MMSAP) Recipient, 2006
#1 takeaway from the MRI? The importance of mentorship. ASH is a large organization, just like a hospital or academic system. It’s easy to get lost or be a passive member when you don’t know where to start or what the organization may have to offer. Having peer mentors provides you a group to pace yourself with and stay accountable to. Traditional mentors who are more advanced in their careers can help you navigate the organization and introduce you to their peers. You learn how to be a good mentor by modeling. Eventually, you pay it forward by becoming a mentor to another.
Advice for early-career hematologists? Don’t be afraid to reach out (and reach out again, if necessary). Everyone is smart and ambitious. Just because you occupy a space and are one of few doesn’t mean people see you. Be proactive about making connections. Say hello and introduce yourself. People are excited to help you, and if they cannot, they surely will refer you to a colleague who can. Also, don’t be afraid to follow up. As I move further along in my career, I realize how easy it is for non-clinical things to fall off my radar, and I’m grateful for a gentle nudge.
Elisa Quiroz, MD
Department of Hematology and Oncology,
Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center
MMSAP Recipient, 2012
Minority Resident Hematology Award Program (MRHAP) Recipient, 2017-2018
Minority Hematology Fellows Award (MHFA) Recipient, 2021
#1 takeaway from the MRI? The ASH MRI experience was like no mentorship program I have ever seen. I received my first award as a medical student and was fortunate to be one of the first to go through the pathway as it was developed. The MRI is a family of physicians who really care about my success.
Advice for early-career hematologists? Find your network and don’t be afraid to reach out to potential mentors. You may not always feel like you fit in at your hospital or clinic, but there are plenty of physicians (like those in the ASH MRI) who would be excited to help you succeed. Be true to yourself, and you will be happy with the career choices you make.
Lynda Villagomez, MD
Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Bone Marrow Transplant,
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
MMSAP Recipient, 2012
MHFA Recipient, 2020
#1 takeaway from the MRI? Mentorship relationships are invaluable and are the secret sauce to academic success. Connecting and remaining involved with this community drastically affected my career trajectory by offering me several opportunities to pursue bench research as a clinician and providing financial support to continue these endeavors.
Advice for early-career hematologists? So much research and innovation start with a simple conversation between colleagues and strangers. Connecting with communities, such as the MRI, provides exposure to many investigators interested in compassionately advancing science and medicine by focusing on what matters most: our patients. Networking is powerful, especially in this community.
Tolulope Rosanwo, MD
Chief Resident, Boston Children’s Hospital
MMSAP Recipient, 2015
MRHAP Recipient, 2021
#1 takeaway from the MRI? I first participated in the ASH MRI as a second-year medical student in the MMSAP. This was the first time I had ever given an oral presentation at a national conference, and the experience also exposed me to ASH for the first time. The audience was so supportive, and I realized at that meeting how much I loved academic hematology! The meeting was in Orlando, Florida, and I recall being more excited to go there than Disney World! I couldn’t get enough of all the talks, especially the ones focused on sickle cell disease and erythropoiesis. This exposure [made it easier] for me to submit my presentation to other conferences and apply for more ASH awards, which include the HONORS Award and the MRHAP. These experiences have helped grow me as a physician-scientist and build up my collaborative network.
Advice for early-career hematologists? Go to the ASH annual meeting! Go up to “that person” and say hello. Share your story. You also inspire others. You have something to teach others.
Apply for the ASH MRI Today!
Applications for the 2024 award cycle are now being accepted for several MRI programs:
- The Minority Medical Student Award Program
- The Minority Hematology Fellow Award
- The Minority Hematology Graduate Award
- The Minority Resident Hematology Award Program
- The Minority Graduate Student Abstract Achievement Award
For more information, including how to apply, visit hematology.org/awards/minority-recruitment.
The July 2023 ASH Directions omitted a degree and incorrectly identified the research focus for one of the ASH Honorific Award recipients. It should state that Johnny Mahlangu, MBBCh, MMed, is recognized for his involvement in the development of new therapies for hemophilia for the past 20 years. He recently worked on development of the first gene therapy for hemophilia A, offering patients the opportunity to lead more normal lives.