The Hematologist

March-April 2012, Volume 9, Issue 2

Increasing Our Global Presence With Highlights of ASH

Armand Keating, MD

Published on: March 01, 2012

Over the past five years, the outreach programs of our Society have expanded and now extend globally. An example of our commitment to the international community is the staging of Highlights of ASH in both Latin America and Asia. These educational initiatives were developed in response to requests from our international members, with the support of a diverse group of national and regional hematology societies, who saw the importance of informing colleagues of the latest developments in the field. The meeting format is a modified version of that used for Highlights of ASH, first introduced in the United States in 2006. The idea behind Highlights of ASH was to provide busy clinicians with a timely summary of the scientific, translational, and clinical presentations that headlined the annual meeting. Case presentations and panel discussions were included to enliven these intimate meetings that typically attract 125 to 250 attendees. The success of the Highlights program in the United States (now called Highlights of ASH North America [HOA NA]) is evidenced by expansion of the number of venues from two initially to six currently, with presentations this year in New York, Atlanta, Orlando, Las Vegas, Austin, and San Francisco.

The favorable response to HOA NA suggested that the concept might travel well, thereby providing the opportunity for a unique educational experience for the international community. ASH had a strong relationship with Brazilian hematologists that had developed through their service on the ASH International Members Committee and their participation in the International Consortium on Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. Hematologists from Brazil suggested the Associação Brasileira de Hematologia e Hematotherapia (ABHH) as the meeting co-sponsor. With ABHH as a partner, the first Highlights of ASH in Latin America took place in São Paulo, Brazil in 2009. It was a resounding success with more than 500 in attendance. This initial foray into South America was followed by another successful meeting, this one in Rio de Janeiro in 2010. The decision was then made to hold the HOA LA meetings annually, alternating the location between Brazil and another Latin American country. The meeting in 2011, with 670 in attendance, was held in Punte del Este, Uruguay, with the enthusiastic co-sponsorship of Sociedad de Hematologia del Uruguay. A specially designed session on how to prepare abstracts for the annual meeting and manuscripts for submission to Blood specifically targeted trainees and junior faculty members.

Planning meetings for HOA LA are attended by the leadership of Latin American hematology societies, and it has been gratifying to see increasing interactions among various regional and national societies with the HOA LA site serving as a common venue for presenting data and discussing issues of common interest. As a result of these interactions, an organized program to collect information about the status of patient care in Latin American countries was implemented. Some of the data generated by these studies was presented at HOA LA in Uruguay, and a paper summarizing the findings was recently published in Revista Brasileira de Hematologia e Hemoterapia, ABHH’s journal.1 Prior to ASH’s involvement in Latin America, a forum around which the societies could meet collectively had not been developed.

Following two years of discussions, ASH held its first HOA Asia meeting in Beijing, China, in 2011, co-sponsored by the Chinese Society of Hematology and the Chinese Medical Association. This meeting attracted almost 900 attendees. In May, the first regional HOA Asia will be held in Singapore with the Cancer Science Institute of the National University of Singapore as co-sponsor, marking the first such involvement with an academic center. We are delighted that the following 10 hematology societies have signed on as partners, making this a truly pan-Asian meeting: Chinese Society of Hematology, Hematology Society of Australia and New Zealand, Hematology Society of Taiwan, Indian Society of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, Indonesian Society of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine, Japanese Society of Hematology, Korean Society of Hematology, National Cancer Center Singapore, National University Cancer Institute of Singapore (NCIS), Singapore Society of Hematology, and the Thai Society of Hematology.

The Wallace Coulter Foundation encouraged ASH to broaden the Society’s reach to Latin America and Asia and has generously supported trainee travel and attendance at every international HOA program. In all, more than 100 trainees have benefitted from the Foundation’s vision and philanthropy. ASH’s involvement in Latin America and Asia has led to greater cooperation and interaction

among hematologists both regionally and internationally, resulting in improved patient care, new opportunities for research collaboration, and a broader exchange of ideas. Somewhat analogous to Janus with his two faces that allowed him to look both forward and backward, the success of these programs encourages the Society to continue to look outward while simultaneously maintaining its inward focus.

  1. Gabus R, Galeano S, de Souza CA, et al. Hematology in Latin America: Where are we? Rev Bras Hematol Hemoter. 2011;33:449-454.

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