It is indeed a great honor for me to serve as president of our esteemed Society for 2024, being only the third PhD scientist to lead our organization, following my late friend and colleague Dr. Hal Broxmeyer. I am very grateful to Dr. Robert Brodsky, who provided outstanding leadership to the Society during 2023 and from whom I learned a lot about leadership, fairness, and integrity. I have been an active member of ASH for nearly 50 years and am continuously impressed with our expanding vision to move the field of hematology forward both nationally and globally. The initiatives that are being pursued have a strong focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion for all our members. Our talented and extraordinary ASH staff provide an incredibly high level of support to the executive committee and our volunteers to carry out the ambitious mission of our Society. As we start a new year and as I begin my tenure as ASH president, it is an appropriate time to reflect on accomplishments and strategize on priorities for the coming years.
During the last several years, ASH has started a number of bold initiatives. These include annual funding to train 10 fellows across the country in classical hematology for five years, the establishment of the ASH Research Collaborative to collect high-quality clinical data on patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) and multiple myeloma, and the launch of an SCD clinical trials network. While these initiatives are critical to advance the vision and mission of ASH, they require significant financial and staff resources. A great deal of effort went into developing organizational structures and management teams for these initiatives to ensure their success. My colleagues and I are very optimistic about their future.
ASH is continuing its long-term commitment to support the careers of investigators at all stages of their professional development — from medical students to fellows in basic science and clinical practice to junior faculty — through our highly successful awards program, which has been expanded internationally. I am delighted that at our 2023 ASH annual meeting, we celebrated the 20th anniversaries of both the Clinical Research Training Institute and the Minority Recruitment Initiative. I encourage all our members to learn about these exciting programs on the ASH website.
I also want to acknowledge the major contributions of our international members. Their participation significantly enhances our global reach and is very much appreciated.
What are the other key initiatives on which our Society should focus? The recent COVID crisis exposed significant economic and social disparities in health care delivery, especially for underrepresented minorities. Personally, I am concerned with maternal health issues and the global problem of iron deficiency, an easily managed condition that affects a vast majority of women and children. As someone who spent his entire research career working on red cell disorders, I am deeply concerned that nearly 1.8 billion individuals globally carry the burden of inherited and/or acquired anemias, which compromise their quality of life. This issue can and should be addressed. Having worked on SCD for more than 40 years, I am also concerned that while some progress has been made in improved clinical management of affected individuals, there are major hurdles in this globally important red cell disorder. ASH’s recent focus on SCD is a great beginning, and I am confident that these efforts will have a positive outcome. Finally, access to new and effective drugs and novel cell therapies for more patients must be addressed. While this issue has long been discussed in the context of resource-poor countries, it is becoming a problem in the U.S. as well. I very much hope all of us can focus on addressing these issues in the coming years.
I would very much appreciate your input on how our Society can further accelerate scientific breakthroughs and advance clinical care for those with hematologic diseases. Development of novel and affordable treatment options is key to the continued success of our Society. Please feel free to reach out to me with your ideas and suggestions at TheHematologist@hematology.org.
I look forward to learning from all of you, making new friends in our wonderful community, working together to advance hematology, and further expanding my horizons over the coming year.