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Science + Workshops + ASH = My Kind of Learning

November 11, 2021
Tania Jain, MBBS

Dr. Tania Jain (@TaniaJain11) is an assistant professor and director of the Adult CAR T Program at Johns Hopkins University. Her academic interest is in cellular therapy, bone marrow transplantation, and myeloproliferative neoplasms including overlap with myelodysplastic syndromes. She is a graduate of Government Medical College, Patiala (Punjab), India, where she received her medical degree, before going on to a residency at Wayne State University/ Detroit Medical Center, and fellowships at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for bone marrow transplantation. 

Dr. Jain grew up in Chandigarh, India, and has since been, in her words, “nomadic … our current residence in Baltimore is what we call home now.” She is a longtime enthusiastic attendee of the ASH annual meeting since second year of fellowship (no breaks) as well as speaker at Highlights of ASH® in North America in 2020. Prior to travel restrictions, Dr. Jain enjoys chipping away at some very specific and ambitious travel goals with her husband. “Our travel adventures of late revolved around visiting the four (north, south, east, and west) extreme points of the United States. We have thus far been to Point Barrow in Alaska (northernmost), Point Buoy in Key West, Florida (southernmost for the continental United States), and almost to (less than 10 miles away from) Ka Lae (South Cape) in Hawaii, which is southernmost for the US overall,” she explained. “This got interrupted with COVID, but we are excited to get back to our travel adventures.” Fingers crossed, and happy trails, Dr. Jain! 

Tania Jain, MBBSAs a student in medical school, I could sit for hours and read. As time moved on (linearly unfortunately), my senescent neurons got more demanding when asked for some basic virtues like focus, concentration, and learning etcetera. The spirit of travel, being around friends and collaborators, and watching a spell-binding delivery of a phenomenal content turned out to be the right mix to feed adequate adrenaline to my grumpy learning center. The electrifying ASH annual meeting environment (yes, in-person or not, it’s electrifying) charges my hippocampus into this oddly effective and functional mode. So, in essence, the ASH education galore is where my learning finds its bliss. I’m sure there are more like me out there… 

For all such people, and everyone else, too, the Scientific Workshops (taking place virtually and in-person) are the place to be to discover what’s not yet been said, what the rising stars of hematology and emerging topics of interest have in store for you, and how to build the bridges of research collaboration. These workshops are scheduled perfectly —December 10, a day in advance of the official meeting days — to literally charge you up in advance of the next four days of the meeting. Sessions span from the freshest and brightest ideas in gene therapy for sickle cell disease to the daunting clinical scenarios-turned-scary-board-questions on hematology and pregnancy, and from dyed-in-the-wool science of myeloid cell biology to how to not write a clinical trial in vain (trust me, you do not want to invite the aspersions of academic critics). A complete rundown of all sessions can be accessed on the virtual platform. 

The Scientific Workshop on Germline Predisposition to Hematopoietic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Failure, chaired by Drs. Lucy Godley and Marcin Wlodrarski, marks its 6th anniversary this year. Over time, this workshop has not only shared a wealth of knowledge but has also propagated collaborative studies. In previous years, this workshop has served to advance the work of the ASH/ClinGen-sponsored Myeloid Malignancy Variant Curation Expert Panel, which has implemented widely applied curation rules for RUNX1 and is now working on curation rules for GATA2. So if you are like me, with enough obsession to drive an unstoppable review of every variant I see on the mutation report, this workshop is where you should be to learn how to use the mutation databases. They will go over updates of variant interpretation resources and databases such as the SAMD9/9L mutational registry, which includes all pathogenic germline variants reported to date. The focus this year is on ribosomopathies, so you can be on the joy ride to solve the “Dameshek’s riddle” of how the same root causes an obverse pathology of hypo- as well as hyperproliferation. 

Now, let me indulge you in that moment on the floor when you get called about a woman who is x months into her gestation and has a coagulopathy or an autoimmune hemolytic anemia. It is one of the most dreaded calls that come to mind. This is where the magic of the Scientific Workshop on Hematology and Pregnancy steps in. Chaired by Drs Henny Billett, Shannon Bates, and Irina Murakhovskaya, comes with a promise of updates on the newest issues in women’s blood disorders. Discussion and Q&A on the use of next-generation sequencing in noninvasive prenatal diagnosis and prenatal genetic editing with peptide nucleic acid/DNA, use of recombinant thrombopoietin, and neonatal Fc receptor in autoimmune hemolytic anemia of pregnancy will stud this stellar session. If I did not catch your attention yet, the session will cover the burning issues of hematologic complications of COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy. Updates on the management of fetal/neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenias and complement-induced thrombotic microangiopathies in pregnancy will also be featured. For me (and many like me), whose heart skips a beat when called for a consult regarding a pregnant patient, this session is a must-attend in my book already.  

For this and more that is now beyond the scope of my diligence in writing, I will now let you pack your bags and get on “the ASH train” by December 10 to dive into this cornucopia of teaching, learning, and discussion. I may not have spelled out every offering here, but I can assure that there is something for everyone in these scientific workshops — malignant and nonmalignant hematologists; laboratory-based, translational, and clinical investigators; early-career, mid-career, and senior scientists; and speakers as well as audience members. 

One of many iconic quotes from Mahatma Gandhi goes as follows: “…Learn as if you were to live forever.” Learning truly is forever, and no one knows that better than those of us in medicine. The Scientific Workshops will provide a one-stop shop for many a learner, researcher, and clinician attending the 2021 ASH Annual Meeting. 

Dr. Jain indicated no relevant conflicts of interest. 

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