The Hematologist

July-August 2015, Volume 12, Issue 4

ASH as a Global Organization

David A. Williams, MD Chief of Hematology/Oncology; Director of Clinical and Translational Research
Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA

Published on: June 11, 2015

For many years, ASH has had a strong international presence — actively engaging hematologists around the world through our annual meeting, Blood journal, international Highlights of ASH meetings, and programs such as the International Consortium on Acute Leukemia and the Visitor Training Program. But what does it mean to be a truly “global” organization? The ASH leadership has spent considerable time examining this question over the past two years.

You may be surprised to learn that 22 percent of the ASH membership is now international (non-North American). Just over 50 percent of Blood manuscripts are submitted from outside of North America, and 41 of the 98 Blood Editorial Board members are international as well. In 2014, 50 percent of annual meeting attendees and 58 percent of abstract submissions were international. Yet, the Society’s governance focus has been primarily domestic, and only residents of North America can be Active members.

For ASH to attract the best science to the annual meeting and Blood, improve the care of patients with blood diseases around the world, and promote international research collaborations, the officers and Executive Committee feel that it is critical for the Society to evolve as a global society. By that I mean that the context in which we develop, deliver, and evaluate our programs and services need to reflect the reality of our global strengths. For instance, we’ll need to consider developing our programs and educational materials in multiple languages and formats that offer broader worldwide applicability. But more importantly, we must become “boundary-less” in our perspectives, and we must deliberate many issues within a context that transcends North American borders in order to achieve our goal of “helping hematologists conquer blood diseases worldwide.”

This past year, I chaired a working group that examined the future of many aspects of ASH’s global efforts. Among these, the Executive Committee unanimously voted approval of continuing to evolve ASH’s global presence. For ASH to effectively embrace this new mindset, the Society’s governance structure must be more welcoming of International members. To that end, later this fall ASH members will be asked to approve a bylaws amendment already approved by the Executive Committee that will give International members the right to vote and give the Nominating Committee the flexibility to nominate international candidates to run for a Councillor position, as appropriate for the needs of the Society, at any given time. A second proposed bylaws amendment would create a new membership category for International Associate members, allowing trainees outside of North America to join and enjoy a member benefits package similar to Associate members in North America.

I urge you to support these changes in governance and membership structure as the logical next steps in ASH’s advancement as a global organization. At the same time, I would like to assure our Active members that funding for current programs, including all our advocacy and educational efforts in North America, will not be reduced in order to fund new international programs or member benefits. ASH continues to thrive and grow, and the leadership’s commitment to its core membership and existing programs is stronger than ever. For example, for the second year in a row, the Executive Committee recently approved an additional commitment of $1 million to the Scholar Awards program, above and beyond the current level (approximately $3.8 million). In addition, ASH continues to vigorously advocate on behalf of hematology researchers and clinicians before Congress and has plans to develop a number of new practice guidelines as well as tools to help our practicing members maintain their hematology certification in an increasingly challenging regulatory environment.

More information about these bylaws amendments will be mailed to Active (North American) members in the fall, and the formal vote will occur during the Business Meeting at this year’s annual meeting. I hope you will join me in support of this critical and historic vote on-site in Orlando.

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