The Hematologist

September-October 2016, Volume 13, Issue 5

Recruitment Across the Spectrum

Charles S. Abrams, MD Professor of Medicine, Pathology, and Laboratory Medicine; Director,
PENN-CHOP Blood Center for Patient Care and Discovery, Philadelphia, PA

Published on: August 24, 2016

One of the most important aspects of ASH’s mission is the commitment to recruit and retain the best talent in the profession. This goal is even more profound as there is a need to attract a diverse group of individuals to embark on careers in hematology. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Committee on Promoting Diversity, the Society has been doing an excellent job of diversifying the pool of new hematologists and drawing in medical school students leaning toward hematology careers. The work of the committee emerges in part from the understanding that a representative workforce benefits everybody, in areas ranging from patient satisfaction, to improved participation in clinical trials, to innovation in care and treatment. However, the Society recognizes that there is much more work to be done to build and sustain a truly diverse biomedical research workforce.

There have been countless studies showing that there is a disproportionately low percentage of minorities going into training, medical practice, and on to faculty positions. For example, in 2013, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino individuals made up only 11.5 percent of all biomedical doctoral degrees, while these groups comprise more than 30 percent of the overall population. As recently as 2010, less than 10 percent of all medical school faculty in the United States were African American or Hispanic. And in 2015, a U.C. San Francisco study found that “since the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act … less than 2 percent of the 10,000-plus cancer studies have included enough minorities to be relevant,” according to the National Institutes of Health’s very own inclusion standards. This stems from the lack of minorities in research, who are more likely to conduct research in minority populations and more likely to gain these communities’ trust.

We all might recognize that these patterns are unacceptable, but as a Society, we are called to do something about it! Closing these gaps means creating the right opportunities for diverse communities of students and trainees. It means opening up new pathways for under-represented groups to witness and experience the richness of our field and to bring their passion for science and patient care into the world of hematology. ASH’s Minority Recruitment Initiative (MRI) represents a vehicle for progress, a way for us to get involved and bring about change, and a seamless pipeline for talent that extends from medical school, to residency, to faculty.

This year, ASH announced three new programs to turn these ideas into reality. The greatly popular Minority Medical Student Award Program (MMSAP) will expand beyond its traditional summer timeframe, into a more flexible 12-month period. The new Minority Resident Hematology Award Program will provide research opportunities in hematology to residents in training, with funding to complete an eight- to 12-week project, also taking place over a flexible 12-month period. Projects can be either laboratory-based or clinical. Lastly, participants in the ASH Institutional Representative (AIR) program will represent ASH locally within their own institution and/or at institutions within close proximity. Participants will advise trainees and hematology faculty on ASH award programs, facilitate the application process, and meet with trainees at all levels to discuss careers in hematology and provide career advice. These new programs will be rolled out in 2017.

All throughout this year, I and others have extolled what an exciting, fascinating time it is to be in hematology. If you want to help spread the word to those who are new to the field while promoting diversity, get involved with the MRI as a mentor, encourage students and colleagues to apply for MRI programs, and stay up to date on the AIR program in the coming months. Visit www.hematology.org/MRI to learn more.

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