A few months have passed since we enjoyed the very exciting ASH annual meeting in San Diego, where we took the time to acknowledge two important anniversaries: the 20-year milestones for both the ASH Minority Recruitment Initiative (MRI) and the Clinical Research Training Institute (CRTI). The MRI consists of multiple programs aimed at building career pathways in the field of hematology for underrepresented minorities. CRTI is a year-long education and mentoring program to prepare hematology fellows and junior faculty for careers in clinical research.

One session that was part of the Executive Committee meeting keeps coming back to me. Through powerful presentations and personal testimonies at this particular session, we learned about the positive and lasting impact these programs have had on scores of young hematology professionals. I was truly moved and inspired by what I heard. As I write, I reflect with pride on what ASH has done to bolster the professional development of so many accomplished and deserving junior members of our community.

Rahma Warsame, MD, an ASH ambassador and CRTI graduate, put it this way while in San Diego: “You can change the legacies of individuals.” (Editor's Note: Please see Dr. Warsame's perspective article.)

While I could not agree more, my ruminations on these two anniversaries don’t speak to a preoccupation with our past. Instead, they underscore my enthusiasm and optimism for our future.

Why? Because the success of these programs speaks to the uplifting moments and transformative shifts that occur when what I call the “Three C’s” come together organically: community, collaboration, and commitment. ASH brings the Three C’s together each and every day.

ASH is a professional society serving clinicians and scientists around the world who are working to conquer blood diseases. More significantly, it is a community of dedicated doctors and scientists who are helping to usher in medical breakthroughs and improve the lives of their patients globally. In this community, there is support for one another as we tackle challenges, find solutions, and celebrate our individual and collective achievements.

As a community, one of ASH’s greatest strengths is its ability to foster collaborations, breaking down walls to invite all perspectives and encourage crucial conversations that lead to change. Without true collaboration, I do not believe lasting change is possible. Nobody wants a solution foisted on them. Instead, we want to be players in creating a brighter future for our patients, our careers, and our field.

Change does not come overnight, and that’s where commitment comes in. The 20-year anniversaries of MRI and CRTI underscore this fact. ASH does not operate with a model of “one and done” when it comes to championing significant and much needed new initiatives. ASH has committed more than $15 million to the MRI since its inception, enabling more than 500 unique experiences in hematology research. Close to 300 MRI awards have gone to medical students alone.

We are indeed seeing measurable rewards from this investment. Consider this one statistic: Of the 2004-2014 awardees of the Minority Medical Student Award Program, 16% of them stayed in hematology, compared with the 5.7% national estimate of hematology faculty from underrepresented backgrounds.

In a similar vein, CRTI, in which ASH has invested approximately $6 million since its founding, is having a positive impact on careers. A 2023 survey of CRTI alumni found the following: Among the respondents, 77.6% of them said CRTI was instrumental to retention in hematology, 84.3% said CRTI facilitated career development as an independent researcher, and 92.7% said CRTI allowed alumni to better understand what is required to succeed in clinical hematology research. These are remarkable outcomes indeed.

As such, it’s no surprise that ASH is expanding this program. Last year, CRTI in North America grew to 28 trainees (compared to an earlier high of 23), with a 50-50 split between classical and malignant hematology, and added webinars, virtual meetings for smaller groups, and several additional features. Significantly, there is global growth as well. In 2023, Clinical Research Trainee Day in the Mediterranean began, along with CRTI in the Asia-Pacific region.

Most importantly, both the MRI and CRTI are helping to generate future leaders in hematology. Whenever I interact with graduates of these programs, my dreams of what we can accomplish in hematology grow larger and stronger.

None of this could happen without donations from ASH members and others to the ASH Foundation, which supports both of these much-needed programs. Together, we are ushering in better treatment options for patients, developing more career opportunities, and creating a more welcoming and diverse environment in which we all can thrive.

Heartfelt thanks for your continued generous support in creating an exciting future for ASH and for all of hematology globally.