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ASH Congratulates 2021 Minority Hematology Graduate Award Winners

November 15, 2021

Now in its second cohort, the Minority Hematology Graduate Award (MHGA) encourages graduate students pursing a PhD from historically under-represented minority groups in the United States and Canada to pursue a career in academic hematology. The award provides funding for students to conduct hematology-focused research. It is open to students in their first, second, or third year of graduate school at the time of application.

ASH congratulates six MHGA winners for 2021. This year’s spotlight is on Tre Artis, who spoke with us about what inspired his foray in science and his work studying genetic mutations that predispose specific populations to clonal hematopoiesis.

Spotlight

Tre Artis — Harvard Medical School; Investigating the Impact of Human Genetic Variation on the Regulation of DNA Methylation During Clonal Hematopoiesis; Mentor: Vijay Sankaran, MD, PhD

When and how did you first become interested in the sciences? What sparked your interest in hematology specifically?

Although I had an interest and took many science classes throughout secondary school, science did not become a serious career option until I started taking biology courses in college. I fell in love with the subject matter, methods of investigation, thought processes, and most importantly how the classes were taught. However, I would say the “seeds of my scientific interest” began when I was a child who was naturally curious and had a thirst for knowledge, specifically wanting to know how living organisms came to be and function. Now I get to contribute to the world’s understanding of the living world, and that feels pretty cool!

“My interest specifically in hematology stems from my other interest in studying epigenetics. The hematopoietic system is a great cellular model for studying epigenetics because this regulation is required for the hematopoietic stem cell to faithfully and reproducibly create all components of the blood. As a result of this, mutations in epigenetic regulatory proteins are linked to many blood cancers; however, the mechanisms are still unclear, making it worthwhile to investigate the links between epigenetics and hematopoiesis.

Tell us a bit about your research proposal. What led you toward selecting it?

My proposal focuses on investigating inherited mutations that cause predisposition to clonal hematopoiesis (CH), the age-related expansion of blood stem and progenitor cells associated with increased cancer risk. In particular, I’m examining a rare, noncoding mutation exclusive to people of the African diaspora that increases risk for CH and is thought to disrupt the function of TET2, a critical epigenetic factor that facilitates removal of DNA methylation; however, the precise role of this mutation in altering TET2 activity and human hematopoiesis is poorly understood. Answering these questions will allow us to better understand why certain populations are at increased risk for developing CH and progressing to diseases such as cancer.

What has been the impact of this award thus far in your career?

Overall, this award aids in preparation for my future investigative career in molecular hematology and most importantly, has provided significant funding for my research, which I hope will result in new findings for the hematology field. It also has given me greater access and exposure to the ASH community and provided opportunities for professional development through attendance and presentation at the ASH annual meeting. I’m looking forward to upcoming annual meetings and Minority Recruitment Initiative events, which I’m sure will be highly transformative and educational experiences!

Anything else you’d like to share with the hematology community?

I’m extremely grateful that awards such as the MHGA exist for under-represented trainees who historically have had less access to resources necessary for their scientific and professional development, and I genuinely hope more organizations will consider creating similar opportunities because science is only made better and more innovative when more people of diverse backgrounds and identities are allowed to participate in the process, as we all have unique ideas, experiences, and skills to contribute.

2021 Winners

Joice Kanefsky — Temple University; Unraveling the Role of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in AML; Mentor: Stephen Sykes, PhD

Ginette Balbin-Cuesta — University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Reactivation of Gamma Globin Expression in ß-Hemoglobinopathies; Mentor: Rami Khoriaty, MD

Danielle Sohai — The George Washington University; Advancing T Cell Therapies for Kaposi’s Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) -associated Malignancies; Mentor: Catherine Bollard, MD

Breanna Maniaci — Oregon Health & Science University; Mechanisms of Ruxolitinib Therapy Resistance in Chronic Neutrophilic Leukemia; Mentor: Julia Maxson, PhD

Paulino JarquinMonocyte/Macrophage Progenitor Regulation of Homeostatic and Stress Erythropoiesis in a Dynamic Human ex vivo Bone Marrow (BM) Biomimicry; Mentor: Nicki Panoskaltsis, MD, PhD

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