By Naseema Gangat, MBBS
There was a palpable sense of excitement as women in hematology rendezvoused in the tastefully set-up Coronado Ballroom of the Manchester Grand Hyatt for an evening of networking. We were warmly welcomed by our current ASH President, Alexis A. Thompson, MD, with words of inspiration: “The future president of ASH is in the room.”
Amy E. DeZern, MD, of Johns Hopkins University and Jyoti Nangalia, MBBChir, PhD, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute led a highly constructive reception focusing on the development of leadership skills. The need for such an event was shaped by conspicuous experiences in their careers. “Sitting around the table at my first divisional meeting after joining the faculty and realizing that all the leadership positions were held by men… and seven years later that is still true,” remarked Dr. DeZern. Likewise, Dr. Nangalia remembers, “Sitting in a scientific meeting held at a prestigious society headquarters… The room we were in was adorned with painted portraits, all of which were of men.”
Margaret Cary, MD, MBA, MPH, PCC, of The Cary Group served as the keynote speaker and really drove her message home regarding leadership in an interactive manner. Despite a remarkable increase in the number of women entering medical school throughout the past two decades and the advent of work-life balance initiatives, men still seem to dominate leadership positions in the medical profession. To that end, the importance of gaining good leadership skills for women hematologists cannot be overemphasized. Additionally, women need support to advance in leadership roles, explained Drs. DeZern and Nangalia. Good mentorship for women hematologists is indispensable. “It is paramount to developing a satisfying and productive career, clinical prowess, research success, or grant funding. In particular, women are often, perhaps inadvertently, omitted from consideration for leadership positions — division chief, professional committee, or study section. A good mentor unfailingly advocates for their mentees, and so can open doors that otherwise we might not have accessed.” said Dr. DeZern.
Thus was an evening well-spent with a delectable multicourse dinner with desserts. Junior and senior hematologists mingled and learned from each other that it’s okay for a career to be hard, and that balancing career with outside interests is challenging at all levels. Moreover, the simple acknowledgement that other women encounter similar challenges was refreshing. Undoubtedly, the event was very well received with more than 250 women in attendance. It lit a fire, inspiring waves of women to pursue leadership in hematology — what we might call a “‘Game of Thrones’ effect.”
Dr. Gangat indicated no relevant conflicts of interest.