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We Belong: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the ASH Annual Meeting

November 17, 2022
Juliana Perez Botero, MD

Dr. Juliana Perez Botero (@JuliPerezBot) was born in Bogota, Colombia, and graduated cum laude from the Universidad de los Andes Medical School and later completed training in internal medicine and hematology-oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She is currently based at Versiti and Medical College of Wisconsin, specializing in nonmalignant hematologic disorders including inherited and acquired bleeding and clotting disorders. Her clinical interest and research focus is on phenotype-genotype correlation in inherited blood disorders (especially platelets) and novel diagnostic laboratory testing strategies. “I am fascinated by diagnostic mysteries and frequently describe my job as a ‘blood detective’ to patients,” she said, which calms their worries about meeting her at someplace called a “Cancer Center.”

“This works for friends and family, too,” she continued, “who, no matter how many years have passed, are still a bit confused about what we do.” Dr. Perez Botero lives in Milwaukee with her wife Donna who is a nurse practitioner and fitness instructor, and their pet dog Birdie and feline Roxy. She enjoys cooking and traveling, as well as drumming, of which she stated, “I am not great, but I enjoy it very much.”


Dr. Juliana Perez Botero

Identity. Community. Belonging. These words represent much more than our feelings; they are indicative that we are heard, accepted, supported, and recognized. They suggest that we not only have a seat, but also a voice at the table. ASH recognizes that diverse perspectives and experiences enrich science and medicine, and that diversity is essential in achieving the mission of improving the lives of people with blood disorders. ASH is committed to leading the transformation of our workforce to more accurately reflect the community we are, as well as the communities that we serve, and strives to explicitly combat inequities and minimize the impact of inequalities.

Progress has been made in explicitly and systematically addressing the root causes of systemic bias in science and medicine. However, there is still a vast amount of work that is necessary to achieve meaningful and sustainable change. Bias and discrimination continue to be highly prevalent in our day-to-day lives, both inside and outside of our academic environments. Reaching full equity and representation requires each one of us to invest time and effort. Our sense of identity is complex. We are multidimensional beings, and how we experience the world at a given place and time is deeply shaped by the intersectionality of our identities. We must remember this and keep it at the forefront of diversity initiatives. Confidence and empowerment can rapidly change to insecurity, fear, and isolation depending on the circumstances, and as humans, we are all prone to being on either side of this equation.

As we meet this year, whether in New Orleans or virtually, we are brought together by our common scientific interests, which provide a framework through which we find common ground. We need, however, to acknowledge that the roads we have travelled to reach this moment are different and that social inequality has made the path much more strenuous for some than others. Be mindful as well that during the experience of educating ourselves in topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), we are in the presence of colleagues who have been affected by the exhaustion of lifelong minority stress and bias. Be aware of the implications this exercise may have on them. For many years, they have been taking on the added task of driving progress by sharing their personal experiences and exposing their vulnerabilities. It is time this responsibility is shared by all members of the hematology community.

In 2022, the ASH annual meeting will offer multiple opportunities in a variety of formats for attendees to learn about the impact of diverse identities, and how to mitigate bias while delivering health care and developing the hematology workforce:

  • Meet mentors with a DEI focus and expertise through Blood Buddies at ASH-a-Palooza, on Friday, December 9 (open to previously registered trainees).
  • Join the conversation at the ASH Health Equity Studio with dedicated sessions on Strategies to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in Healthcare and Industry, Recognizing and Addressing Implicit Bias, Overcoming Disparities in Career Development, and more (Saturday, December 11, 9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m., and 11:15 a.m.-11:45 a.m.; Sunday, December 11, 9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m.; Hall F).
  • Participate in the ASH Health Equity Rounds Lunch (Sunday, December 11, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Marriott New Orleans Warehouse Arts District, Cypress).
  • Support the research of trainees with diverse backgrounds and celebrate the recipients of the ASH Minority Medical Student Award, the Minority Resident Hematology Award, and the Minority Hematology Graduate Award, as well as the ASH Minority Hematology Fellowship Award program participants (Saturday, December 10, 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Jefferson Ballroom for classical hematology and St. Charles Ballroom for malignant hematology).
  • Build community by attending the Disability Community Networking Breakfast (Monday, December 12, 7:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. Marriott New Orleans Warehouse Arts District, Gravier AB) and the LGBTQIA+ Community Networking Brunch (Sunday December 11, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. at the Marriott New Orleans Warehouse Arts District, Gravier AB).
  • Wrap up with the virtual ASH Poster Walk on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy (Wednesday, December 14, 5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m.).

We invite everyone to participate in the DEI sessions and events this year. Attend one or multiple sessions to open your mind to new experiences or dive deeper into topics that you are already familiar with. The ASH annual meeting provides a unique platform to make connections. Take advantage of this opportunity by initiating a conversation with a colleague or reconnecting with a friend — network and build relationships with colleagues of different backgrounds. Putting “face” to an issue can have great impact. It makes it personal, makes it matter. #ASH22 marks a small but important step in taking the opportunity to leverage one’s privilege and lead by example in being the change we want to see in the world. We all deserve better. Here, there is no “them” only “us.” We Belong. 

Dr Perez Botero indicated no relevant conflicts of interest.

About the Author: Dr. Juliana Perez Botero (@JuliPerezBot) was born in Bogota, Colombia, and graduated cum laude from the Universidad de los Andes Medical School and later completed training in internal medicine and hematology-oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She is currently based at Versiti and Medical College of Wisconsin, specializing in nonmalignant hematologic disorders including inherited and acquired bleeding and clotting disorders. Her clinical interest and research focus is on phenotype-genotype correlation in inherited blood disorders (especially platelets) and novel diagnostic laboratory testing strategies. “I am fascinated by diagnostic mysteries and frequently describe my job as a ‘blood detective’ to patients,” she said, which calms their worries about meeting her at someplace called a “Cancer Center.”

“This works for friends and family, too,” she continued, “who, no matter how many years have passed, are still a bit confused about what we do.” Dr. Perez Botero lives in Milwaukee with her wife Donna who is a nurse practitioner and fitness instructor, and their pet dog Birdie and feline Roxy. She enjoys cooking and traveling, as well as drumming, of which she stated, “I am not great, but I enjoy it very much.”

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