In 2018 ASH announced an entirely new program for under-represented minority residents, the ASH Minority Resident Hematology Award Program (MRHAP), the goal of which is to provide support for under-represented minority residents to conduct hematology-focused research with the intended outcome of increasing interest in hematology research and choice of fellowship. Now in its second cohort, this award program, much like the MMSAP Flex experience, is intended to fill the gaps in the longitudinal pathway from medical student to hematologist by providing under-represented minority trainees with additional research opportunities and one-on-one interactions with both a research and career development mentor.

Participants have the opportunity to perform research within the full spectrum of hematology ranging from stem cells to sickle cell disease (SCD) to leukemia. In addition to a $5,000 research stipend for laboratory supplies and statistical support, those selected also receive a $1,000 travel allowance to attend the ASH annual meeting; $1,000 after the ASH annual meeting for presenting their research at the Promoting Minorities in Hematology Presentations and Reception (Saturday, December 7, 6:30-9:00 p.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando, Plaza International I/J and Orlando Ballroom LMN); complimentary subscriptions during residency to Blood, as well as The Hematologist; and the guidance of a research mentor and a career development mentor. One of the award’s 2018 participants, Dr. Elise Quiroz shares more about her experience as an MRHAP winner. Please join ASH in congratulating all of this year’s participants, and read on to learn what led them toward their specific research areas, as well their predictions for hematology’s most significant “game-changers.”

Elisa Quiroz, MD
Beaumont Health
MI Variations in microRNA expression in Latin American patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Research Mentor: Dan Douer, MD — University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine
Career Development Mentor: Ivan Maillard, MD, PhD — University of Michigan

“The people and programs I have been exposed to fuel my passion for science and humanity. The mentorship, experience, and relationships I developed at the Minority Resident Hematology Awards Program have played a large role in my career development. I worked alongside stalwarts in hematology who not only taught me about the field, but more importantly reaffirmed that aspiration is limited only by imagination, not by privilege.

With our rapidly advancing knowledge of the genetics behind cancer, I think the biggest “game changer” in hematologic research will be enhanced screening and prevention in high risk individuals. Just as immunotherapy has shifted our treatment paradigm to a more targeted approach, cancer genetics will allow for earlier and more effective detection of cancer.

Women in science and medicine are few and far between, and Latina women are even more rare. ASH’s Minority Recruitment Initiative has undoubtedly given me the skills and support to achieve more than I ever dreamed I could. My ASH Career mentor, Ivan Maillard, MD, PhD, has been an invaluable resource in matching my interests to meaningful research projects. Each year, when we meet at the ASH annual meeting, he sits down with me and listens to my career goals and personal interests. When I told him about my goal of living and working in the Latino community he suggested that I reach out to Dan Douer, MD, who studied APL in Latino patients in Los Angeles and who would ultimately become the mentor for my research in ALL.

Hematology is an incredibly rewarding field. It is a humbling experience to walk alongside someone in the fight for their life. The field is also one of the most rapidly evolving medical specialties and has a strong research component. I did my undergraduate education in Biomedical Engineering and found that hematology fulfilled not only my desire to treat patients but also allowed me work on the forefront of science and medicine.

Many mentorship programs aspire to achieve what ASH’s MRI does to perfection. I am excited to continue to participate in this program and hopefully inspire the next generation of Latina hematologists.”

2019 MRHAP Participants

Leyla Bojanini, MD
Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Education
Patient understanding, attitudes and preferences regarding clinical trials
Research Mentor: Adolfo Diaz Duque, MD, MSc — UT Health Science Center San Antonio
Career Mentor: Gerardo Colon-Otero, MD — Mayo Clinic
In Their Own Words: “Prior to starting residency, I worked in the Clinical Trials Office of USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. This motivated me to pursue my area of research as I worked with patients from different racial/ethnic backgrounds. In doing so, I was able to witness the barriers to recruiting minorities for clinical trials; this issue reached a personal level as a doctor coming from Latin Amer-ica… As for game changers in the near future, gene therapy is a groundbreaking field that has already shown promising results for patients with both malignant and nonmalignant hematologic diseases. While this is an exciting moment for the field, there is more work to be done to further develop both safe and effective drugs. I anticipate many great advances in the few years to come.”

Omayra Gonzalez Pagan, MD
UT Houston – McGovern Medical School
The effect of platelets on complement activation and cancer cell proliferation
Research Mentor: Vahid Afshar-Kharghan, MD — The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Career Mentor: Modupe Idowu, MD — UT Houston – McGovern Medical School
In Their Own Words: “I had the honor to participate in the ASH annual meeting as a MRHAP awardee in December 2018. The support provided; the networking; the mentors available to talk about my goals, research, and career options were completely unexpected and incredible. I learned more that I could have imagined. The opportunity given to me through the MRHAP has helped improve my project design abilities and writing skills, which are critical for my career goals in clinical research. And it has provided me with excellent mentors who are willing to help me in the process of residency and fellowship.”

Sherraine Griffin, MD
The Ohio State University
Effects of implementing customized pain regimens on time to first opiate and patient satisfaction in sickle cell patients
Research Mentor: Payal Desai, MD — The Ohio State University
Career Mentor: Ashley Rosko, MD — The Ohio State University
In Their Own Words: “My interest in sickle cell disease (SCD) started at a young age. I was diagnosed as a child with SCD and developed a passion to help others with the disease thrive. It is unfortunately still an area of hematology that requires more research and funding. I think and hope that gene editing will be the biggest game-changer in the field of hematology. It sounds like it should be simple which probably means it will be anything but simple. I think it could greatly improve lives if successful.”

Daniela Hernandez, MD
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Molecular profile and prognosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) in Hispanics
Research Mentor: Adolfo Diaz Duque, MD, MSc — UT Health Science Center San Antonio
Career Mentor: Mark Levis, MD, — Johns Hopkins University
In Their Own Words: “I’m currently doing my residency and had to take a break from research, so this project was a great way to be involved in research and with the Latino community to better understand DLBCL and offer patients the best treatment options. When I was doing research in leukemia, I realized how much the field was already changing. Within two years I saw huge improvements in the level of care of hematologic malignancies just by knowing more about the disease and how to attack it. I think the enhanced molecular understanding is already a huge game-changer in the field, better enabling us to treat the disease and prevent recurrence.”

Olufunke Martin, MD
Riley Hospital for Children
The impact of a standardized emergency room pediatric pain protocol on sickle cell disease pain management
Research Mentor: Seethal Jacob, MD, MS — Indiana University School of Medicine
Career Mentor: Punam Malik, MD — Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
In Their Own Words: “My research area of interest includes enhancement of the care of pediatric patients with SCD in the emergency department. This has inspired my current research project to increase provider awareness and facilitate timely implementation of an SCD emergency department pain protocol to decrease hospital admissions and length of stay, and to improve clinical outcomes. This stems from the need for comprehensive, systematically reviewed, evidence-based guidelines for the management of children with SCD. It is an exciting time to be a trainee preparing for an academic career in pediatric hematology! With gene therapy now an attractive alternative therapy for patients with SCD, it will drastically change the field by broadening the curative interventions available.”

Alexandra Power-Hays, MD
Boston Children’s Hospital/Boston Medical Center
Asparaginase-associated pancreatitis: do early imaging findings predict clinical severity in children?
Research Mentor: Lewis Silverman, MD — Dana Farber Cancer Institute/ Boston Children’s Hospital
Career Mentor: Venee N. Tubman, MD — Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers
In Their Own Words: “I became interested in this project while covering a weekend shift on the gastrointestinal service and discharging a smiling child with idiopathic pancreatitis that resolved after a few days of IV fluids. I compared her to a boy who was in remission from his ALL but had had hemorrhagic asparaginase–associated pancreatitis years prior, and was still admitted regularly for sequelae and pain. My n of 2 was small, but I heard more from my current research mentor (Dr. Silverman) and our oncology and GI attendings that for some reason, AAP tends to be quite severe compared to other etiologies, and I found that intriguing … Shifting gears a little, there are several incredible cures and interventions for SCD being studied. I hope that soon there will be a ‘hydroxyurea 2.0’ — an oral pill that will modify the epigenetic control of fetal hemoglobin without affecting other cell lines — that will cure sickle cell disease and will be available in all corners of the world. That will be a game-changer not only for hematology, but also for childhood mortality globally!”


Research Presented

ASH Minority Resident Hematology Award Program (MRHAP) participants present their research at the Promoting Minorities in Hematology Presentations and Reception (Saturday, December 7, 6:30-9:00 p.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando, Plaza International I/J and Orlando Ballroom LMN); Orange County Convention Center (map it). 


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