American Society of Hematology

The Continuing Evolution of ASH: Turning Dreams into Reality

Armand Keating, MD

Published on: November 01, 2012

Having served as part of the ASH leadership team for 12 years, I am in a unique position to reflect on the enormous strides we have made as a Society. Perhaps what strikes me the most is that we are now launching programs and achieving goals that we only dreamed about when I first joined the Executive Committee in 2001.

Who could have imagined that one day we would bring Highlights of ASH® to Latin America and Asia and reach hematologists from more than 30 countries – many of whom would not otherwise have been exposed to the research and clinical education presented at our annual meeting? Through ASH’s global outreach, we now deliver educational materials to institutions in developing countries, provide scholarships to physicians and laboratory scientists around the world, and facilitate an international consortium designed to improve clinical care and create the infrastructure to undertake network-based collaborations in acute leukemia.

Within the Unites States, ASH has become an increasingly influential player in the area of advocacy and has a prominent role in affecting issues ranging from biomedical research funding to physician reimbursement to health-care delivery. This past year, ASH led the charge on drug shortage concerns by bringing the issue to the attention of Congress, identifying proposed solutions, and strengthening the final legislation to the benefit of hematologists and their patients. Our newly released Agenda for Hematology Research, produced by the ASH Committee on Scientific Affairs, is a blueprint for funding priorities that makes a strong case for the importance of investing in hematology research.

We have also taken an aggressive stance in the area of training future generations of hematologists by funding more than $4 million dollars annually in scholarships and research grants. For example, the Clinical Research Training Institute (CRTI), now in its 10th year, provides promising researchers exceptional training on how to conduct rigorous patient-oriented clinical research. Along the same lines, but with a different focus, the Translational Research Training in Hematology (TRTH) program, a joint effort with the European Hematology Association (EHA), draws on the strengths of this partnership to help position young scientists as global leaders in translational research. Additionally, we have two successful scholarship programs designed to increase the number of underrepresented minority scholars in the field.

Perhaps ASH’s boldest initiative has been the recently launched bridge grant program, which will provide at least 30 one-year awards annually for the next three years, in the amount of $100,000 each, to ASH members who applied for an NIH R01 grant or equivalent but were denied funding due to budget cutbacks. The long-term goal of the award is to help sustain recipients’ research and contribute to their retention in hematology investigation. This program, the first targeted to the present crisis of NIH funding, commits a total of $9 million to this effort and catapults ASH once again into a leadership role within the biomedical research community.

We are able to launch these programs because of the dedication of members and the involvement of committed leaders who have dared us to tackle new challenges, pursue creative initiatives, and dream big dreams. So, with that in mind, I urge you to take a more active role in ASH. It begins by simply renewing your membership and encouraging a junior person to join. But there is more! I hope you will consider contributing to the new ASH Foundation, which is dedicated to ensuring the future of our field and providing support to a new generation of hematologists. Be assured that 100 percent of your contribution will go to supporting initiatives like the bridge grant program, making a difference today and in the years to come.

This editorial marks my last as president of ASH. With humility and appreciation, I want to thank you for the privilege of serving as your president this past year, and I know that we will be led into a bright future by incoming president Jan Abkowitz and a committed team of leaders and volunteers from across the globe.

I very much look forward to greeting you in Atlanta, GA, at our 54th annual meeting.

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