American Society of Hematology

ASH Program Successful in Promoting Minority Careers

Michael DeBaun, MD, MPH

Published on: March 01, 2011

Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, JC Peterson Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, Vice Chair for Clinical Research, Pediatrics, and Director, Vanderbilt-Meharry Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease, Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital

Five years ago, ASH entered into a partnership with the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (AMFDP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in an effort to increase the number of underrepresented minority scholars receiving academic and research appointments in the field of hematology. Although the AMFDP has been supporting minority scholars for more than 25 years, ASH’s funding of the joint ASH-AMFDP Award helps to ensure that deserving applicants in the field of hematology receive the support they need. Since the new award was launched in 2006, five scholars, one per year, have been accepted into the program, which is a remarkable accomplishment considering that the AMFDP accepts applications from all specialties and funds only eight to 12 scholars per year.

ASH is currently the only subspecialty society to partner with the AMFDP, which recognizes ASH’s Minority Medical Student Program (MMSAP) as a model program for providing medical students with research experiences and considers the MMSAP the pipeline to the ASH-AMFDP scholars program.

Christopher R. Flowers, MD, MS, the first ASH-AMFDP Award recipient, describes the profound impact the award has had: “This funding provided the groundwork for my future career goals with training in information management with regard to clinical trials, research design, and statistical modeling; it has strongly supported my desire to pursue a career in academic medicine.”

In addition to remaining committed to developing careers in academic medicine, ASH-AMFDP recipients are equally as committed to serving as role models for students and faculty of similar backgrounds and giving back to the Society. A number of the current ASH-AMFDP recipients have served as research and career-development mentors to MMSAP participants, and ASH-AMFDP awardees and alumni come together annually at the Promoting Minorities in Hematology Reception at the ASH annual meeting to support the careers of the MMSAP participants.

“The ASH-AMFDP award has really been a huge jumpstart to my career. It enabled me to secure my own lab space and devote more time to my research. I am hoping that the data accrued during my award will serve as the basis for my R01 application,” said 2008 recipient Seth Rivera, MD, PhD.

The ASH-AMFDP award not only provides dedicated time for scholars to obtain academic and research appointments, but also fosters leaders within ASH and the hematology community at large. Formerly known as the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program, the AMFDP program was expanded in 2006 in honor of Harold Amos, PhD, the first African-American to chair a department, now the Department of Microbiology and Medical Genetics, at Harvard Medical School. Thirteen Active ASH members have been recipients of the award. They include Alexis Thompson, MD, MPH, currently an ASH Councillor, and Griffin Rodgers, MD, Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at NIH.

As an MMFDP alumnus, I am honored to be chairing the Committee on Promoting Diversity that oversees this program in addition to the other programs under the Society’s Minority Recruitment Initiative. This partnership is a testament to the Society’s commitment to increase the diversity of scholars in the field of hematology.

Alejandro Gutierrez, MD, received the award in 2009 and is excited for the work yet to come. “During the remaining years of my award, I hope to translate my findings into novel therapeutic strategies leading to clinical trials in patients with relapsed or high-risk T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which I hope will improve outcomes for this subgroup of patients. Outcomes are poor with currently available therapy,” he said.

This year’s ASH-AMFDP Award application deadline is March 16. Interested applicants should visit the ASH website, www.hematology.org/awards, to learn more and to apply online.

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