The Hematologist

November-December 2016, Volume 13, Issue 6

ASH Honors the Life and Work of Dr. David Grimwade With Exemplary Service Award

Published on: October 31, 2016

In early October 2016, ASH announced that the Exemplary Service Award would be presented to Dr. David Grimwade, who passed away on October 16. Dr. Grimwade served as a Professor of Molecular Hematology at King's College London, and was a member of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Guy's King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine. In addition to Dr. Grimwade’s expertise in the molecular characterization of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), he contributed a wealth of knowledge to the identification of prognostic factors in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and approaches for the detection of minimal residual disease.

The award was established in 1998 in recognition of ASH members whose years of service have significantly advanced the Society’s interests. Dr. Grimwade, thanks to his deep commitment and contributions to ASH training programs, specifically the International Consortium on Acute Leukemia (ICAL) and the Translational Research Training in Hematology (TRTH), was selected for the honor just prior to his passing, and his family will be presented with the award at the 2016 ASH Annual Meeting in San Diego.

ICAL is an international network that seeks to improve the care of patients with acute leukemia. The program convenes clinical investigators from three continents in the spirit of international clinical and laboratory collaboration. Since 2007, Dr. Grimwade devoted his time and energy to sharing his expertise with his Latin American colleagues through ICAL, and in 2013 he was selected by the group to chair the Laboratory and Diagnostic Activities Subcommittee. His exemplary leadership helped guide numerous laboratory personnel in ICAL member countries to reinforce their techniques and diagnostic capabilities, ultimately improving the diagnosis and treatment of acute leukemia. Dr. Grimwade was also pivotal in working with his ICAL colleagues on a chemotherapy-free protocol for APL.

TRTH is a joint effort by the European Hematology Association and ASH that provides junior researchers with a unique, year-long training and mentoring experience to help strengthen their careers in hematologic translational research. As a TRTH faculty member, and ultimately a co-director for 2016, Dr. Grimwade mentored numerous trainees and junior faculty, who were impressed not only with his dedication and extensive knowledge and experience, but also his sense of humor and easygoing persona. In spite of his brief tenure, he took many strides to help advance the program in his new co-director role. In addition to program planning, faculty recommendations, course curriculum development, and leadership during the spring workshop and two follow-up sessions, Dr. Grimwade was instrumental in enacting a more streamlined system for reviewing applications, resulting in improved efficiency of TRTH’s study section process.

In his years of involvement with ASH, Dr. Grimwade elevated the aims of the Society in ways that earned the trust and respect of colleagues around the world. Several shared their endorsements and remembrances of Dr. Grimwade upon the announcement of his Exemplary Service Award as well as his passing:

For many years, I have known David as an outstanding scientist, but even more, as a leader within ICAL. Without his constant advice and support, the consortium would not be where it is now. David has been instrumental in establishing molecular genetic laboratories in participating South American countries and in implementing the quality control system. Beyond this, David always has enriched our discussions with his broad knowledge of the field, his great sense of humor, and his ability to integrate everyone in the activities of the group. His supervision has been key to improving the quality of the group’s laboratory studies and, therefore, to the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with acute leukemia in Latin America. On behalf of more than 400 patients enrolled in our studies, I express our gratitude. — Eduardo M. Rego, MD, ICAL National Coordinator, Brazil

David’s multiyear commitment to TRTH, culminating in his role as co-director in 2016, will have a lasting impact on the next generation of leaders in hematology research worldwide. Behind the scenes, he was a voice of reason and effective critical thinking regarding all aspects of the program, most notably the study section process and selection of inspiring faculty. During the course, he led with a wicked sense of humor and constant generous and effective mentoring. All of us, both participants and faculty, benefited. — Cynthia Dunbar, MD, TRTH, Co-Director

Throughout the past two decades, David has been a highly respected and authoritative leader in the molecular diagnostics of these diseases and is recognized as one of the pioneers in this field, where improved diagnosis and more precise monitoring have translated into better clinical outcomes for our patients. As a chair of the subcommittee on diagnostic and add-on studies in the International Consortium on Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia [now expanded to ICAL], David gave invaluable insights, both to implement diagnostics and to foster genomic research studies on APL in Latin America in close collaboration with Dr. Eduardo Rego (Brazil), the late Dr. Rosario Uriarte (Uruguay), myself, and others. His attitude was a blend of critical appraisal, original thinking, and collaboration. David was always fond of Rome and visited us many times especially for the International Symposium on APL. He last joined us in Rome in late September 2016 despite being severely ill, for the sixth edition of the International Congress on Secondary Leukemia. He participated intensively in all sessions and contributed vividly to the discussion. We all admired his tremendous strength and courage. I was happy to see his wife Frances and his daughters joining him for the weekend. He wrote back in early October saying that this had likely been his last meeting. The hematology community suffers a huge loss with this death. I will much miss David as a colleague and friend. — Francesco Lo-Coco, MD, ICAL Founding Member

David has made significant scientific contributions to the field of molecular diagnostics of leukemias. His molecular research on minimal residual disease in leukemia and his 2016 papers in NEJM and Blood are the most recent examples of his innovative and clinically important work. He has generously shared his know-how and expertise with his junior colleagues and trainees in the interest of education. We are and remain grateful to David for his active and constructive support in advancing the level of medical care of patients with hematologic diseases in countries with less privileged health-care systems. I am sure many of us feel the same way: We will remember David as a personal friend and as a role model in the international collegial scientific community in leukemia, and as a big supporter within the global cooperative ASH outreach programs. — Bob Löwenberg, MD, ICAL Founding Chair

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