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Championing Diversity Across the Health Care Continuum

December 9, 2023


ASH continues to embrace the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion by leading efforts that promote the advancement of underrepresented groups in hematology and celebrating the champions on this front.  

This year, the ASH Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity goes to Alexis Thompson, MD. She is being recognized for her exemplary leadership in addressing the health care needs of an underserved population and for mentoring trainees from communities historically underrepresented in hematology. Dr. Thompson is the the hematology division chief at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and holds the Elias Schwartz, MD, Endowed Chair in Hematology.  She was formerly the hematology section head at Lurie Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where she was also the associate director for Equity and Minority Health at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Dr. Thompson, who served as ASH president in 2018, received her medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine and a master of public health degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. She completed residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Thompson has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed publications, chapters, editorials, and scientific abstracts related to hemoglobinopathies, bone marrow failure syndromes, and stem cell transplantation for pediatric patients with nonmalignant disorders.  

Dr. Thompson takes great pride in her collaborative work, which has helped to bring novel sickle cell treatments to the forefront of drug development and shape gene therapy for hematologic conditions. During her more than 20 years of involvement with ASH, she has also served in a variety of volunteer roles, including a four-year term as an ASH councillor from 2010 to 2014, a co-chair of the ASH Annual Meeting Education Program, a reviewer for Blood, and as part of the ASH Sickle Cell Task Force. For more than a decade, she provided career development guidance as a Minority Medical Student Award Program (MMSAP) mentor. Many of her former mentees have been involved in ASH Minority Recruitment Initiative (MRI) study sections or served as members of the ASH MRI Program Subcommittee. During her term as ASH president, Dr. Thompson emphasized the need to enhance the trainee pipeline in hematology (particularly in classical hematology) and promote the best science and patient care worldwide via international collaborations in hematology, including expansion into regions with unmet scientific and medical needs.  

Beyond her academic and research efforts — which have led to the introduction of treatments for patients with sickle cell disease and hemoglobinopathies — her leadership and optimism have motivated those around her to make an impact on all those disadvantaged by barriers in access to equitable care. In many of her roles, she has advocated for workforce diversity in health care and in biomedical research through policy directives, community engagement, and partnerships with local public health organizations. She has also advocated for inclusion of minority patients in clinical trials at both the national and international levels.  

In a 2022 interview with Oncology Data Advisor, Dr. Thompson offered advice on how to promote minority recruitment in clinical trials at the community level: “I think that trying to identify community partners is very important, as well as being clear on the value to the community that participating in a clinical trial can provide. There are some communities for whom clinical trial participation is quite new. There are others who have historical doubts about their participation in anything that’s related to something that they’re not familiar with. I think that identifying people who the community values and who the community trusts and having those people support clinical trial participation is one way to reach them.” 

When asked to comment on the factors that continue to drive her efforts in the areas of both research and advocacy, Dr. Thompson emphasized that she gains inspiration from working with early-career clinicians and investigators, feeding off their excitement and energy. Her positive influence and steadfast involvement have helped mold trainees from underrepresented groups into the future generation of leaders.  

Join ASH in honoring Dr. Thompson at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Hall A of the the San Diego Convention Center. 


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