Hal E. Broxmeyer, PhD
There is a critical need for and concern about a pipeline of scientific and clinical investigators necessary to ensure the future success of our field, and those practitioners who will put new information to clinical use. To ensure this continuum means that we must excite and educate our brightest students early enough to recruit and maintain them in our field. This requires engaged mentorship where the young benefit from the wisdom and mistakes of the more experienced. We need to recognize early on those students interested in and enthusiastic about blood cell function and production and regulatory mechanisms inherent under normal conditions and during disease. We must also find a way to interest those students who don’t yet know that our field is where they belong. If we only know tomorrow what we know today, there will be limited or no advances in future health care. While we are enlightened on a constant basis about advances in science and medicine in high-quality journals such as Blood, these advancements will slow or stop without a continued pipeline of investigators.
ASH is committed to funding and enhancing the careers of our up-and-coming scientific and clinical investigators through our meetings, awards, and training institutes. ASH makes $4 million available each year through our scholarship and grants programs. Recognizing that this is a global problem, most ASH scholarships and grants are now available to members from around the world. The National Institutes of Health and other government and private organizations in our country and other countries also have programs in place to support this pipeline. However, I maintain that there is not enough funding currently available to adequately foster the pipeline. Moreover, in this drive to identify and recruit new investigators, we must not lose track of funding for our more experienced investigators — the ones who must provide resources and mentorship to make the pipeline viable.
As it should be, the most deserving grants, as determined by a rigorous peer-review system, are funded. However, there are many meritorious grants that don’t reach the level of a fundable score, especially in these times of economic downturn. A clear example of this is the U.S. stimulus money, which could only fund an extremely small percentage of the meritorious grants scored. No one has a crystal ball to predict where the next breakthrough will come from, and by not figuring out how to fund more grants from our experienced investigators, we all lose, and the system goes into “slowdown.” Imagine how a new investigator or student thinks of their own career opportunities when his or her mentors, who are still productive and whose grants, while of high quality, have not received a good enough score for funding, no longer have the means to adequately sustain their laboratories and the laboratory members.
I don’t pretend to have an answer to this problem of not being able to find the means to fund all the productive investigators who are needed to train the next group of young investigators. However, together we need to find a creative way to fund more of our experienced — as well as young — investigators in order to maintain the pipeline crucial to the future of our field. ASH has made a commitment to promote recruitment and retention of hematologists, starting from the time medical students are introduced to the field and continuing on through novel loan repayment programs. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases are our partners in this work, and we hope to have a myriad of interventions outlined for action by early next year. ASH is also working to create a pipeline of research scientists. I call on each of you to offer your ideas and support to assure that tomorrow’s patients will have hematology researchers and practitioners available. We look forward to hearing your comments and advice as we enhance our efforts in these worthy endeavors to address this critical challenge.
It has been a true pleasure to serve as the 2010 ASH president. Highlights of my term clearly include close interactions with the committed ASH staff, officers, and Executive and many other committee members, as well as you, the members, who are the “heart, soul, and lifeblood” of ASH. Together our goal remains the preservation and enhancement of the field of hematology. Toward this goal, ASH is in good hands with incoming President Evan Sadler and President-Elect Armand Keating.
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