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2022 Minority Hematology Fellow Award Spotlight

December 13, 2022

Currently in its third cohort, the Minority Hematology Fellow Award (MHFA) encourages early-career researchers (MD/ DO, PhD, and MD/DO-PhD) from historically underrepresented 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 nine MHFA winners for 2022. This year’s spotlight is on Ruth Wangondu, MD, from the 2020 cohort, who spoke with us about her work on a tumor suppressor related to the development of leukemia. Join ASH in congratulating Dr. Wangondu and all of the early-career hematologists who have earned this prestigious award.

 

Tell us a bit about your research. What led you toward your interest in this area of hematology?

My research is on Ikaros, a tumor suppressor involved in the development of leukemia, and integration of genetic data from diverse populations to inform prognosis and treatment of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). In my basic science research, I use in vitro and in vivo models of B-ALL to study effects of Ikaros alterations on leukemogenesis and drug resistance. In my clinical research, I am interested in defining effects of Ikaros alterations on prognostication and risk stratification of B-ALL.

I chose to research hematologic malignancies to help deliver the promise of precision medicine to diverse populations on a global scale and inspire others to do the same. My origins in Kenya, a lower middle-income country, together with medical work in various African countries and under-resourced areas in the United States, have exposed me to the dilemmas of marginalized patients with malignancies with poor treatment outcomes. Fortunately, in the course of my physician-scientist training, particularly at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I have come to appreciate that it is possible to translate even the most advanced medical and scientific discoveries to benefit the most vulnerable patient populations.

 

How has your research/career mentor influenced you or contributed something special to your MHFA experience?

My research mentor Dr. Charles Mullighan informed me about the MHFA research funding opportunity from the outset when I began my fellowship training. He recruits and retains an impressively diverse group of researchers in his lab and pursues and sustains global collaborations to advance scientific knowledge in the field of leukemia research.

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