The American Society of Hematology Honors Michael R. DeBaun, MD, and Leonard Zon, MD, for Outstanding Mentorship
(WASHINGTON, July 12, 2019) – The American Society of Hematology (ASH) will recognize Leonard Zon, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston and Michael R. DeBaun, MD, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville with the 2019 ASH Mentor Award for their sustained, outstanding commitment to the training and career development of early-career hematologists.
The ASH Mentor Award recognizes hematologists who have excelled in mentoring trainees and colleagues. Each year, the Society recognizes two outstanding mentors in the areas of basic science, clinical investigation, education, or clinical/community care who have had a significant, positive impact on their mentees’ careers and, through their mentees, have advanced research and patient care in the field of hematology. ASH President Roy Silverstein, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee will present this award to Drs. Zon and DeBaun on Sunday, December 8, during the 61st ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition in Orlando.
“The mentor award represents the hard work of my mentees in the United States, Nigeria, and Ghana who have taken on the challenge of focusing their life’s work on delivering and advancing the care of children and adults with sickle cell disease,” said Dr. DeBaun. “Their collective work is a sense of immense pride, not only for me, but also for my wife and now adult children.”
Dr. DeBaun is being recognized for his profound influence on his mentees’ intellectual growth and career development. He is a professor of pediatrics and medicine and vice chair of clinical and translational research in pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and director of the Vanderbilt-Meharry Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). He is a renowned clinical investigator whose work to improve care of patients with SCD has been recognized with numerous awards, including the ASH Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize in 2014.
Dr. DeBaun grew up in a family of public school educators and youth athletic coaches. His commitment to mentoring spans every level of education, from high school students with SCD to tenured faculty members at multiple medical schools. Dr. DeBaun’s mentees have attained academic leadership positions and expanded their expertise in SCD, both nationally and internationally. In fact, his former mentees, and now collaborators, are leaders of SCD research teams studying how to prevent strokes in children with SCD in Nigeria and to decrease pregnancy-related deaths in women with SCD in Ghana. Dr. DeBaun has been a faculty member and director of the ASH Clinical Research Training Institute (CRTI), a one-year mentoring program for fellows and junior faculty. He has been the primary mentor for 13 CRTI scholars, including the first CRTI scholar from sub-Saharan Africa and a recipient of the ASH Global Research Award. Two of his mentees have been also been directors of CRTI.
Dr. Zon is being recognized for his outstanding track record of mentees that have gone on to establish their own funded laboratories or clinical programs. He is currently the Grousbeck Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University. He is the director of the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Zon is well-known for his work on hematopoiesis and the use of zebrafish as a model, and he has received several awards, including the ASH E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize in 2010.
Dr. Zon enjoys mentoring people at all stages of their careers, from students and technicians to faculty members. He organizes events such as a postdoc mentoring breakfast and graduate student lunch to discuss various aspects of building a career in research and “technician’s tea” to make sure everyone in his laboratory is getting the mentorship they need. Dr. Zon has developed core modules focused on topics such as developing a budget for a lab, practicing an elevator pitch, presenting at a meeting, and writing a grant. He also created a game played at his laboratory retreats called “You be the PI” in which a postdoc or student reads a sample case of a real-life issue that has arisen in the laboratory and discusses potential solutions. Additionally, Dr. Zon has annual one-on-one career meetings with his postdoctoral fellows to discuss career goals, review training plans, and identify specific opportunities for improvement.
“This is truly an amazing honor,” said Dr. Zon. “I have always felt that mentoring was one of the most important aspects of being a physician-scientist. It takes extra time to provide mentorship, and it is wonderful to be appreciated.”
“Drs. Zon and DeBaun embody the characteristics desired of a hematology mentor, as they have been committed, selfless, and approachable teachers and leaders,” said Dr. Silverstein. “They continuously advocate for their mentees’ professional success and have improved and inspired the lives of countless individuals. I am honored to recognize them with the ASH Mentor Award at this year’s annual meeting.”
The American Society of Hematology (ASH) (www.hematology.org) is the world’s largest professional society of hematologists dedicated to furthering the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders affecting the blood. For 60 years, the Society has led the development of hematology as a discipline by promoting research, patient care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology. ASH publishes Blood (www.bloodjournal.org), the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field, which is available weekly in print and online, as well as the newly launched, online, peer-reviewed open-access journal, Blood Advances (www.bloodadvances.org).
Sara Khalaf, American Society of Hematology