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10 Questions With … Dr. Catherine Bollard

December 9, 2023

Catherine Bollard, MD, MBChB, is the interim executive vice president and chief academic officer at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., interim director of the Children's National Research Institute, director of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research, and associate center director for translational research and innovation at the George Washington Cancer Center. Dr. Bollard is also the editor-in-chief of Blood Advances. 

1. If you were to compile a bucket list, what would top that list? 

The highest on my work-related bucket list is to solve the “pediatric valley of death” (drug concept-to-patient) that impedes life-saving advanced therapies from reaching children with cancer and other rare diseases. On my life bucket list, I would love to take my husband to places I visited in the 1980s that I have always intended to visit again, most especially Iguazu Falls in Brazil and Argentina and Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. I also want to make sure I visit all 50 U.S. states (I still need to visit Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) and all the continents (I still need to visit Antarctica). Finally, I really want to see both the aurora australis and the aurora borealis (but obviously not on the same day).  

2. What ASH luminary do you most admire? (Who’s your ASH-lebrity?)  

Ed Benz because he was ASH president in 2000, which was my first-ever ASH meeting. That year, the annual meeting was in in San Francisco and coming from New Zealand, I could not even have imagined attending a meeting that big. I was awestruck by Dr. Benz’s ability to command such a large room. He was so impressive, and I thought at the time, “Wow, I will never be able to do that!” 

3. What’s the best piece of advice you ever received? 

Best piece of advice was from my mentor Dr. Helen Heslop, who is the recipient of one of the ASH mentors awards this year. It was related to which visa I should get in the U.S. It was the only piece of advice that she gave me that I did not take, and it proved to be a costly error! Needless to say, I have always taken her advice since then.  

4. When I’m down, … bring me up. 

 My husband and daughters. 

5. What’s your one can’t-miss presentation or event at the ASH annual meeting? 

The Blood journals reception of course!  

6. What’s your hidden talent? 

I did train as an opera singer in my former life. And, after just enough glasses of wine, I am still known to break into a rendition of Pokarekare Ana, which is a well-known Māori love song in New Zealand. 

7. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

Raw seafood (oysters, sushi, sashimi, ceviche, etc.). This choice may be related to my Polynesian roots. 

8. What’s been your greatest success? 

Every time I see the first patient treated with a novel “first in human” T-cell therapy that my team and I developed is considered another greatest success in my mind. Success for me is all about the team and all about the patients we serve.  

9. When starting my career, I wish I had known …  

That the world really would be my oyster. 

10. What’s your favorite CD or album? 

I have so many favorites which are wide ranging, from classical to jazz to rock to pop-soul to indie-pop. But if you were to ask my family, they would tell you that my favorite album is Mango Groove’s “Hometalk” album. On many a family car trip I would torture the “fam” playing this album. For some reason, the album drives them crazy, but I can’t help it; the music really takes me to my happy place. 

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