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Robert A. Brodsky, MD: 1998 ASH Scholar

Robert A. Brodsky, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director, Division of Hematology
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD

On Becoming a Hematologist

My interest in hematology began with my dad. He was a hematologist, and he was at the very first ASH meeting in Atlantic City. I’m pretty sure that there has been a Brodsky present at every ASH meeting since the inception. What’s really neat is that I have a son who is a medical student who presented a poster at the ASH annual meeting two years ago, so we have three generations of Brodskys who have presented at ASH.

On Receiving the Scholar Award

Getting any grant at that stage of your career is exciting, but getting the Scholar Award was particularly exciting because it validated me as an academic hematologist. I was just starting out and I’m pretty sure that I had just received a K award for my research around that same time. The K award had a big impact on protecting my time and validating my research, but the Scholar Award pushed me over the top because it really gave me time to focus on research.

Research Focus

When I got the Scholar Award, we were looking at the mechanisms of clonal dominance in paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and trying to understand how cells respond to complements. Within a few years of getting the award, and using some of the funds from that award, we developed a novel diagnostic assay, the FLAER assay, which is used around the world today to diagnose PNH. We also just recently developed something called a Modified Ham test, not for PNH, but for a disease that is related to complement-atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome. I didn’t use the Scholar Award funding to develop that test, but it provided the seed money to be able to start looking into complement and bone marrow failure states. It played a big role in developing my lab.

I still work in the same area I was in when I got the ASH Scholar Award, which I think is a great testament to the award.

Career Impact

Without the Scholar Award it would have been very hard to continue in academics. The NIH training grants were a huge help to me, but this award gave me some flexibility to do some spin-off projects and research going in more than just one direction. With awards like this one you can take a bit more risk in the project and that was helpful to me.