Many people have asked me, “How is your year as ASH president going?” They send condolences (“Sorry you have to be president this year”) or comment, “Bet you never thought it would be like this.”
Nope, I never thought it would be like this. I feared all sorts of other challenges that could broadside a professional organization, but I never considered a pandemic that would paralyze the world.
I’m actually grateful that I was ASH president this year. I was given the opportunity to lead an organization I respect so much amid never-before-seen challenges. One of the selfish reasons I wanted to serve as ASH president was because I saw significant opportunities for personal growth, and boy, has this year provided plenty of those. I’ve discovered that I like leading where there is no path. I’m proud of how ASH has stepped up to support hematologists despite significant threats from every direction. ASH has created new clinical resources including the FAQs, webinars and clinical practice guidelines, a COVID-19 research agenda, and the Research Restart Award program, among other initiatives.
As ASH president I’ve had a front row seat to the commitment and resilience of the ASH staff and the enthusiasm and talent of its member volunteers when asked to take on extra work. ASH has been well managed for decades, so it went into the pandemic in a strong financial position. While other organizations have been forced to cut back, ASH is increasing its support of trainees and young investigators, who are the future of our field but are vulnerable right now. In an effort to keep everyone safe while still moving forward, small conferences, training courses, and committee meetings have all been converted to online gatherings. ASH also continues to support its global programs, advocacy efforts, and diversity initiatives. In short, your professional organization continues to work hard for you and for hematology despite COVID-19. We all hope that 2021 is better than 2020, but whatever the challenges, ASH will be in good hands because Dr. Marty Tallman will be your next president. I know that he will do a fantastic job and represent your interests well.
While the 62nd ASH Annual Meeting will be virtual, it will still showcase the best basic science, translational studies, and clinical advances that are improving the survival and quality of life of people with blood diseases. While an online meeting can’t be the usual smorgasbord of old friends, new collaborations, and hallway interactions we’re used to, ASH has embraced the reality and limitations of being virtual and sought out creative solutions to the challenges of online delivery. It will be different, but I think you will find it even better in some ways, and certainly more convenient and eco-friendly. I hope that we are able to reach more people, especially those who could never travel to the meeting, and that everyone participates and feels welcome. I look forward to “seeing” you there!