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ASH Presents 2021 Minority Hematology Fellow Award to Five Early-Career Researchers

November 15, 2021

Currently in its second cohort, the Minority Hematology Fellow Award (MHFA) succeeds MRHAP in the pathway and precedes the ASH-AMFDP. It encourages early-career researchers (MD/ DO, PhD, and MD/DO-PhD) from historically under-represented minority groups in the United States and Canada to pursue a career in academic hematology and provides salary support as well as funds to support hematology-focused research projects. MHFA is designed to retain fellows in hematology.

ASH congratulates five MHFA winners for 2021. This year’s spotlight is on Alejandro Marinos Velarde, MD, who spoke with us about his work on novel CAR-T therapies for lymphomas and the importance of having under-represented minorities in medicine. Dr. Velarde is also a winner of the ASH-CIBMTR-ASTCT Career Development Award, and the first MHFA participant to receive the new joint award.

Spotlight

Alejandro Marinos Velarde, MD — Baylor College of Medicine; Allogeneic CD30 Chimeric Antigen Receptor Epstein-Barr Virus-Specific T Lymphocytes (CD30.CAR-EBVSTs) in Patients with Relapsed or Refractory CD30-Positive Lymphomas: Expansion and Persistence in the Blood of Treated Subjects; Mentor: Carlos Ramos, MD

What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in academic hematology?

I was attracted to medicine because it has both a scientific aspect and a humanitarian aspect. Pursuing a career in academia allows me to continue focusing on seeking knowledge and alleviating suffering.

What is your current research focus, and how will this award help you to further these interests?

I am currently part of a Baylor College of Medicine team working on a novel chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy for CD30+ tumors, mainly Hodgkin lymphomas. My long-term plan is to continue to focus my research on cellular therapies for lymphomas. The ASH/CIBMTR/ASTCT Career Development Award not only helps me fund this research, but I see it also as a platform to obtain further grants in the future.

From your perspective, what is one challenge and one strength/opportunity facing under-represented minorities in the hematology community?

I think the biggest challenge is finding a mentor you can relate to, who understands your circumstances and, as such, can adequately guide you. Opportunity-wise, as under-represented minority individuals, we can advise other physicians and health care team members about some unique cultural aspects related to taking care of patients from backgrounds similar to our own. It has been shown in research that cultural competence improves health-related outcomes.

2021 Winners

Elisa Quiroz, MD — Scripps Clinic/Scripps Green Hospital; A Comprehensive Analysis of Genetic Predisposition in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in the Latino Population; Mentor: Marin Xavier, MD

Alexandra Power-Hays, MD — Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; Alternative Dosing And Prevention of Transfusions (ADAPT): A Prospective Clinical Trial Assessing the Feasibility, Safety, and Benefits of Pharmacokinetic-guided Dosing of Hydroxyurea for Children with Sickle Cell Anemia in Uganda; Mentor: Russell Ware, MD, PhD

Dailia Francis, MD, PhD — Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University; Characterizing the Role and Mechanisms by which Siglec-15 Promotes Immune Dysregulation in Lymphoma; Mentor: Christopher Porter, MD

Vivian Irizarry Gatell, MD — University of Florida; The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Clinical Outcomes in Patients with Newly Diagnosed Acute Myeloid Leukemia; Mentor: John Wingard, MD

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