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William Savage, MD, PhD: 2011 ASH Scholar

William Savage, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pathology
Associate Medical Director, Blood Bank
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Boston, MA

On Receiving the Scholar Award

There are a lot of feelings that go on when you get the Scholar Award, or any grant for that matter. The first is validation that somebody else thinks that your ideas are worthwhile. Then there’s a sense of relief. You know that you can pursue the hard work to get your research done and spend that much less time to find the funding for the work that you want to do. There is also a feeling of being honored. There are a lot of incredibly smart people in hematology and many of them have received ASH Scholar Awards. When I got it, I remember thinking, “I’m in an esteemed group.”

Research Focus

My project was high risk in that transfusion medicine research is not widely supported. So funding it, I think, was kind of high risk for the hematology community – to reach out and say, “We’re going out of our comfort zone and we’re going to fund transfusion medicine, which we don’t traditionally do. On top of that, we’re going to fund research in a field that really nobody else has gone into in a long time. We’ll see what happens.”

It’s very clear that the Scholar Award pushed the accelerator on my research career. It basically gave me the foundation for which to accomplish the science and get the data that yielded more grants and more research into the area. It kind of gave me direction and momentum. Before that, it was all speculative. The award was transformative in that way.

Career Impact

Part of the transformation that happens with a larger grant like the ASH Scholar Award is that you can hire people to help you do work. I remember hiring my first study coordinator, and I remember the feeling of exhilaration it gave my project. Previously, as a fellow and, initially, as a faculty member, I was doing all of this work myself and running around the hospital, interviewing patients with reactions, and getting their samples. Then, all of a sudden, with someone else to do this work, it freed me up to think about the science more. I remember how that kind of took me. I felt the transformation from a person working for myself to developing a small team of people to achieve greater things.

On Belonging to ASH

The ASH Scholar Award and other junior investigator opportunities like the Clinical Research Training Institute locked me in for life with ASH. I feel indebted because ASH really gave me the direction in my career and the validation that I was doing good work. It’s very important when you’re starting out to get that because it’s very easy to bail out and drift in your career path.