The Hematologist

March-April 2018, Volume 15, Issue 2

In a Global State of Mind

Alexis Thompson, MD, MPH Sarah and A. Watson Armour Chair in Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, Hematology Section Head; Professor of Pediatrics
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL

Published on: March 05, 2018

As the Highlights of ASH meetings in Asia-Pacific and Latin America take place in March and April, respectively, the timing seems appropriate to consider the efforts that we make as a global Society to help hematologists treat difficult diseases at home and abroad.  In many ways, ASH’s global reach is a powerful reflection of the Society’s mission to promote research, clinical care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology, regardless of international borders, and involves not only major meetings such as Highlights of ASH, but also our publications, awards, and other initiatives that promote diversity, education, and training. As programs expand and new initiatives are developed, the Society’s outreach becomes even more imperative to ensure that we keep our domestic and international members informed about the broadening mix of ASH programs and services.

You can learn about the entire growing roster of programs and awards that define our international efforts online. For this column, I want to shed a spotlight a few of the initiatives that provide a real flavor for what ASH seeks to achieve worldwide. At the annual meeting you may have had the chance to visit the Global Capacity-Building Showcase in the poster hall. This new poster category was designed to highlight extraordinary initiatives in low- and middle-income countries to address local challenges in hematology research or care delivery that highlight existing partnerships with measurable outcomes. And ASH’s support for global capacity-building extends beyond any single event: numerous initiatives have been created with the goal of helping to develop knowledge, disease management, clinical and research skills, and improved outcomes.

The Visitor Training Program (VTP) is another program that fosters outreach and capacity-building by funding hematology professionals from low- and middle-income countries to train in a specific area of hematology with an ASH member for up to 12 weeks. Training can focus on skills either in the clinic or in a research or laboratory setting, and is intensive enough such that in the timeframe provided, participants can start implementing what they’ve learned upon return to their home institutions and start having an impact on hematologic patient care. Last year, ASH awarded 25 VTP grants to participants from 13 countries including Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Georgia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka, and Turkey.

Supporting the careers of future leaders in the field is a clear priority for ASH. Feedback from members was a big stimulus for creating the Global Research Award in 2017. This award is for hematologists outside of North America who are between the completion of training and the establishment of their independent careers. The number and quality of applications in the inaugural has been impressive. We encourage all eligible international ASH members with an MD, PhD, MD-PhD (or its equivalent) to learn more about this opportunity and to submit a letter of interest before August 31, 2018.

Through Health Volunteers Oversees (HVO), members of ASH share expertise with their counterparts working at institutions in low- to middle-income countries. Local hematologists at program sites in Cambodia, Peru, and Tanzania have had the opportunity to present their needs, both in the clinic and the laboratory, that are addressed by volunteers through a variety of consultative activities including mentorship, lectures, teaching materials, and other activities. In 2017, ASH facilitated placement of 12 volunteers at the active HVO sites.

I’ll close by noting that this Year of the Dog marks ASH’s 60th annual meeting. It is fitting to observe this milestone not only by acknowledging the breakthroughs that we have achieved as a field, but also celebrating the drivers that have made these innovations possible: clinicians and scientists who call all corners of the world “home.” They truly represent the “Best of ASH.” With the help and participation of ASH’s membership, I look forward to seeing continued growth in our body of programs and offerings to impact blood disorders around the globe.

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