It was the science that first lured me to the ASH annual meeting, but it’s this community that has kept me coming back. Year by year, the session rooms have gone slowly from being filled with strangers to seating many of my friends. There are more smiles, hellos, and waves when I walk through the convention center. Many more hugs and hallway conversations. More meetings at the meeting, putting faces to names, gaining acquaintances and future collaborators. You, dear reader, are the reason I am looking forward to San Diego!
A diverse network of people with different skill sets and perspectives has done more for me than any antacid, and “text a friend” has become an important tool to use in moments of professional (and personal) panic. Even after five years of working in a multidisciplinary hematology/maternal-fetal medicine clinic, I am as terrified of “hematobstetric” emergencies as I was about “El Coco,” the monster that was rumored to live under my bed when I misbehaved as a child. I am certain that the How I Treat Session Hematologists and the Care of Pregnant Women and the Education Program Session Why Am I Getting Paged at 2 a.m.? Microangiopathic Emergencies (both on December 9) will provide a practical framework to approach stressful scenarios with a cooler head for those of us who consult on these cases.
The Poster Sessions are one of my favorite places to find hidden gems, reconnect with mentors, and support mentees. I will inevitably gravitate toward Category 311 (Disorders of Platelet Number of Function), but I always find themes that interest me embedded within other categories. As a consulting specialist, I live by the motto “let me help you help your patient,” and telemedicine and eConsults have emerged as impactful systems that increase the reach our expertise. Category 901 (Health Services and Quality Improvement — Non-Malignant Conditions) will showcase the implementation and outcomes of these initiatives in underserved populations, including pregnant patients with iron deficiency and critically ill patients in geographically remote areas. As excited as I am about new technologies that allow us to obtain more biological data for clinical diagnostics, using technology to make the most of the data we already have is a win-win for resource optimization. I will be stopping by Category 803 (Emerging Tools, Techniques, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Hematology) to learn about the use of AI in the analysis of data derived from the complete blood count, including identifying patients with a high probability of VEXAS (vacuoles, E1 enzyme, X-linked, autoinflammatory, somatic) syndrome based on morphologic features of their polymorphonuclear cells. As much as we need to stick to categories to get the meeting organized, there is so much overlap in mechanisms, methodologies, diseases, and outcomes in hematology that you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn in the most unexpected places. Note to self: Look beyond your niche.
Caring for others means caring for each other as well. Let’s learn and practice how to best support one another at the Health Equity Studio. I am especially looking forward to How to Support LGBTQIA Patients, Trainees and Colleagues: A Whole Person Perspective, which will explain the importance of language when advocating for LGBTQIA+ people, and Using Research to Advance Equity in the LGBTQIA+ Space (both on December 9). When my wedding band prompts others to ask about my “husband,” leaving me to decide if a correction to “wife” is safe, I remember how far we’ve come but how much we have left.
Networking anyone? If you’re an early riser, check out the Wake up to DEI Networking Breakfast. If you are camp “all you bleed is blood” (my favorite iheartguts plush “organ”), the Hemostasis and Thrombosis Community Networking Reception brings together enthusiasts of all things clots, a great blend of clinicians and scientists who work together to help people of all ages. The ASH and ASH Research Collaborative: Advancing Progress in Sickle Cell Disease will highlight progress in initiatives to drive change in sickle cell disease and provide an opportunity to network. (The three events are scheduled for December 11.)
Projects and grants will come and go, but people will remain. Find your crowd, expand your network, and stretch out of your comfort zone. Find what fills your cup and top it off!
Dr. Perez Botero indicated no relevant conflicts of interest.