Message From the President Regarding Atlanta
Dear ASH member,
As we prepare for this year’s ASH annual meeting with the hope that we will be able to convene in person, we appreciate those of you who took the time to complete our survey to help us better understand the factors that will influence your decision to join us in Atlanta – in person or virtually – in December.
In addition to concerns about COVID-19, we understand that many of you are troubled by the recent legislation passed in Georgia that threatens to disenfranchise many voters through restrictions on the use of mail ballots and impose significant barriers to voting in person. I want to assure you that the ASH Executive Committee cares deeply about this issue as it negatively affects vulnerable communities, including many of our patients who may have to choose between their health and their right to vote, not to mention our own members and other health care professionals who work challenging hours and may find it difficult to access the polls. The right to vote is crucial to every citizen’s ability to advocate for his or her own wellbeing, and we oppose any efforts to restrict the democratic process, particularly when those efforts disproportionately affect underserved communities.
What’s perhaps more alarming is that we are seeing similar legislation passed in other parts of the country, including in states like Florida that also host our annual meeting. Unfortunately, it appears this is likely to be an ongoing problem that reaches well beyond this year’s annual meeting.
Many of you have urged ASH to boycott Atlanta as a meeting venue to pressure Georgia to repeal this legislation. While my Executive Committee colleagues are in agreement that ASH bears responsibility, as a scientific organization committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, to use its influence to advocate for change, the question of whether a boycott would be the best way to achieve our goal was the subject of considerable, thoughtful debate. Our biggest reservation was that an ASH boycott could inadvertently inflict further harm on the hospitality workers in Atlanta trying to rebuild from the devastation of the pandemic.
To inform our decision, we sought input from various stakeholders, including members of the standing Committees on Government Affairs and Promoting Diversity. In late April, we met with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to get her perspective on how ASH could be a most effective ally. She validated our concerns about bringing further hardship to the Atlanta community, noting that voters in the region who would be most affected by a boycott do not support this law. She urged ASH to work with like-minded groups to make our position known and to focus on longer-term efforts to promote voter turnout for the 2022 election as the most promising route to effecting change.
We will continue to work closely with the mayor’s office on the advocacy front and encourage our members to participate in our efforts. By joining the ASH Grassroots Network, you can rest assured that you will receive regular updates from ASH on this and other issues of importance, including access to tools to help make your voice heard.
In the meantime, I ask for your understanding and support of our decision to proceed with plans for an in-person meeting in Atlanta, provided that circumstances related to COVID-19 allow us to do so. In the coming months we will share information about how attendees can support the local community, including minority-owned businesses in Atlanta.
I also ask your indulgence in taking a few moments to complete our third and final survey about your plans to attend the meeting, which you should receive in late May/early June. These surveys are critical in helping us ensure that both the in-person and virtual meeting experiences exceed your expectations.
On behalf of myself and the Executive Committee, thank you for your continued support of ASH. We look forward to an exciting year ahead.
Martin S. Tallman, MD