“How is your ASH presidency going?” is a common question I have received this year. “It has been a lot of work, but mostly fun,” has been my reply. With this being my last column for The Hematologist as ASH president, I find myself reflecting upon my experiences over the past year. Three major themes emerge: new horizons, accomplishments, and gratitude.
Twitter (now known as X) was my first new horizon. Prior to becoming president, I had little use for social media. It seemed like a waste of time, but ASH staff convinced me that it was important for the president to have a presence on social media. Reluctantly, I agreed, and @docsdock200 was born. Like so many things in life, new adventures keep you young and teach valuable lessons. I saw that, when used with good intentions, X can be an effective platform for teaching medical students, trainees, and hematologists worldwide. Through posting on X, I was able to teach hematology to people I never would have connected with before. In addition, I was able to learn more hematology from ASH members across the globe.
Speaking of “across the globe,” many who know me understand that travel is anathema to me. However, I knew as ASH president I would have to overcome my reluctance to leave my home turf. ASH is a global organization dedicated to helping hematologists conquer blood diseases worldwide, and more than 40% of our members reside outside the United States. This past year took me to Vienna, Austria; Frankfurt, Germany; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Tokyo, Japan. Memorable trips within the United States included Colorado Springs, CO, and La Jolla, CA. Each destination provided an opportunity to see exciting developments in hematology and offered a valuable perspective on the global accomplishments of ASH.
For example, in La Jolla, I participated in ASH’s Clinical Research Training Institute (CRTI). CRTI is a yearlong education and mentoring program for hematology fellows and junior faculty at academic medical centers. CRTI offers education on research methods, statistics, and how to craft an academic career. It starts with an intense week-long workshop in La Jolla. I saw firsthand the incredible young hematology talent and selfless dedication of the volunteer faculty.
ASH’s accomplishments are too numerous to list in this column, but a recent highlight is the inaugural class of ASH’s Hematology Focused Fellowship Training Program (HFFTP). How many medical organizations commit $19 million of their own money to specifically train fellows? The HFFTP aims to address the workforce shortage in classical hematology. Over the next 10 years, this program is on pace to add more than 100 classical hematologists to the medical workforce. Amazing!
Another recent highlight is the launch of two new hematology journals. There has been a nearly 20% increase in hematology funding over the last decade, and laboratory and clinical research has increased markedly. This January, Blood Neoplasia with Dr. Jonathan Licht and Blood Vessels, Thrombosis & Hemostasis with Dr. Keith McCrae as the respective inaugural editors will join the esteemed portfolio of ASH journals. Each of the new journals will become a valuable asset for both readers and researchers.
My final reflection on this past year is that I am enormously grateful to serve as the 65th president of ASH, an experience that will be a highlight of my career. I personally want to acknowledge the ASH staff. I wish our members could see the dedication and professionalism of these fantastic people. Additionally, I am grateful to the ASH Executive Committee. My working relationship with Drs. Mohandas Narla, Belinda Avalos, Joseph Mikhael, and Cynthia Dunbar has been exceptional. Their wisdom and dedication — augmented by that of our exceptional councillors, program chairs, and committee chairs — have made my job easy. Moreover, my exceptional faculty at Johns Hopkins have been incredibly supportive and never once complained about covering me during my absences this year. I am also grateful to my administrative assistant, Natalie Danish, who managed to turn chaos into calm. Lastly, I am grateful for the love and support from my wife, Amy, who helps put wind in my sails.
I cannot wait to see you all in San Diego. We set an ASH record for number of abstract submissions (more than 7,800) and will likely have more than 30,000 attendees. Most importantly, the quality of the science is spectacular, and the benefit to our hematology patients will be palpable. The state of our society is strong. ASH will be in wonderful hands with our incoming president (and my good friend), Dr. Narla.