American Society of Hematology

Maintaining a Sense of Community Within ASH

Janis L. Abkowitz, MD
Division of Hematology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Published on: July 01, 2013

ASH’s strengths are our diversity and that we are a single voice for a broad field. However, while ASH continues to provide resources and services for hematologists in all areas, the enormous growth in the size of the annual meeting has made it increasingly more difficult to maintain a sense of community among our various smaller, sometimes distinct and sometimes overlapping, constituencies. ASH’s leadership is committed to ensuring that these communities persist and thrive.

This past fall we conducted an email survey of membership. Thirty-four percent of you responded, representing a broad spectrum of interests. At the ASH Executive Committee spring retreat, we looked closely at what you said.

You value ASH and especially the annual meeting. Since the best hematology science and best clinical research are presented, ASH is the natural and supportive home for translation in hematology. But there were repetitive concerns such as the meeting is too big, that it is too difficult to navigate, and that your specific subgroup interest (e.g., hemostasis/thrombosis, hematopathology, transfusion medicine, hematologic malignancies, red cells, pediatric hematology) was not specifically prioritized. This led us to consider how we might ensure that ASH (as a meeting and a society) better serve the communities and sub (sub) communities that we are.

Here are some plans for December 2013: We have committed to having a better geographic coordination of topics at the annual meeting so that like sessions are nearby, allowing for more seamless transitions between abstract presentations. Tables and chairs will be grouped outside sessions on similar topics to encourage informal conversations among attendees with similar interests. In addition, the format of the Scientific and Education sessions will be consistent (with questions following each talk) so that timing between sessions is concordant.

Although more tables and chairs throughout the meeting venue will benefit networking among all communities, different groups have different needs. For example, the myeloid biology research community hosts a Friday workshop where scientific ideas are presented in a five-minute rapid-fire format and then discussed. We plan to invite other science subgroups to apply for similar support. Complete an application form.

Most importantly, however, we want to hear from you. While the member survey shows an overall high rate of satisfaction with ASH, we know that more can be done. We want to better understand how you identify with communities within the organization, the value you derive from these relationships, and how ASH can foster these smaller groups to flourish within the larger organization. We will be soliciting feedback from the membership on this issue in mid-July. Please respond with concrete suggestions – not about how you as an individual might be bettered served, but about how ASH might help your subset group(s) both at the annual meeting and throughout the year.

We will use what we learn to develop a proactive strategy to strengthen this valuable aspect of ASH membership. Creativity is encouraged! We look forward to piloting the best ideas, much as we did with the myeloid workshop, and when successful, the new activity will serve as a model for other communities.

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