By Dr. Navneet Majhail, ASBMT President
I was among the enlightened when I began hematology-oncology fellowship, since I had already decided on BMT as my career path. I was so determined to train at one of the meccas of transplantation that I was not fazed by the sub-zero temperature that fateful day in December when I interviewed at the University of Minnesota (thankfully, my wife first saw the Twin Cities in summer and it was too late by the time she experienced her first Minnesota winter).
My first order of business as a fellow, before learning how to spell “trastuzumab,” was to sign up as an ASBMT member-in-training. Ever since, I have eagerly looked forward to reading the President’s Column in ASBMT’s monthly Newsletter. It has always been a source of inspiration and wisdom and a glimpse into the future of our society and field, with other tidbits like the trivia Dr. Sergio Giralt would scatter in his posts, and the quizzes by Dr. Fred LeMaistre. So, it is rather surreal as I compose my first message as president, and as someone recently reminded me, as the first president of the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT).
If you follow me on Twitter, you know me well already. In case you don’t, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up all over India since my father was a doctor in the army and we moved every two to three years. I practiced “improvised” medicine on my younger brother and friends using what I had access to at home, which subsequently transitioned to more structured education in medical school. Just in case medical school did not work out, I started a band called Cadavers – obviously that gig did not go anywhere and here I am. My formative years in BMT were spent in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota, the CIBMTR and the NMDP, where I was very fortunate to have mentors like Drs Daniel Weisdorf, Linda Burns, Mary Horowitz and Dennis Confer. At some point my current bosses Drs Brian Bolwell and Matt Kalaycio took a leap of faith and asked me to take over the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the Cleveland Clinic. My day job involves running the BMT Program with support from an incredible team. After hours, I provide moral support to my wife Rajni, as she herds our three children and Goldendoodle, Caesar. Rajni is a geriatric psychiatrist, and according to her expert assessment, Caesar is the only sane individual in our household.
I consider myself to be very fortunate that I get to lead our society at such an exciting time. Our field is at an inflection point with an increasing emphasis on non-transplant cell therapy, and as the “original cellular therapists” we are already adapting as we care for patients receiving a plethora of innovative cell based products at our transplant programs. Recognizing this shift, we have changed the name of our signature conference from BMT Tandem meetings to the TCT Meetings of ASBMT and CIBMTR.
At our first TCT meeting in Houston, we announced the renaming of our society to the ASTCT. This is the result of a thoughtful dialog among leaders of our society, that culminated in our strategic planning process last fall. We had some really hard conversations, balanced nostalgia with pragmatism and the past with the future. There was unanimous consensus among the board, which was subsequently endorsed by our membership, that as a field we must maintain our leadership in all aspects of clinical care, research, education, advocacy and policy in cell therapy and transplantation.
I look forward to working with our many passionate and dedicated members who volunteer on the board, committees and SIGs as we start the process of realizing our strategic vision. Continued close collaboration with many of our long-standing partners - the CIBMTR, FACT and BeTheMatch/NMDP - will be critical for our success.
We just concluded a very successful #TCTM19 meeting under the leadership of our Scientific Organizing Committee co-chairs, Drs Gay Crook and Jane Apperley. The program was outstanding, the research and educational presentations were spectacular, the energy and excitement was infectious, and it was inspiring to see so many enthusiastic and upcoming transplanters – ranging from physicians to administrators to nurses, pharmacists, APPs and social workers. We had the largest attendance ever (trust me, this is not an alternative fact or fake news)! The tweet by @hmgcoa2 more or less reflects my feelings about the meeting.
Last but not the least, I came back with a better appreciation of the proper usage of “Y’all” and “all Y’all”.
I have to acknowledge the vision of our recent past-Presidents Drs Chris Bredeson and Krishna Komanduri, who recognized the tremendous opportunities that lay in front of us and pushed for a change in our management company so that we could take our society to a whole new level. And I have learned a lot from the eternal wisdom and serenity of Dr John Dipersio, who steered the society through a very smooth transition. I have worked very closely with our new management team since they came on board officially in April 2018, and I can say with great confidence that we have exactly what we need as we start implementing ASBMT's strategic vision under the stewardship of our Executive Director Andre Williams. Our ASBMT team is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - stay tuned for many new features and offerings from the society as we start rolling out the new name and begin implementing our strategic plan.
I have to confess that I am bit nervous as I take on this responsibility, but at the same time I am very excited about the opportunities for the society and our field. I will look forward to your continued support and encouragement as I begin my term. Please contact me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@BldCancerDoc) with ideas and feedback.