A Whirlwind Fall - November President's Message

A Word from President Krishna Komanduri, MD

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this message finds all of you doing well. After the tumultuous events of September (see my last e-News column) I am pleased to say that the “whirlwind” in my title is entirely metaphorical.  In Miami, with hurricane season thankfully fading, we continue to await the cooler and drier air that many of you have now experienced for two months.  Instead, we have been experiencing ongoing summerlike heat and humidity.  Fortunately, my trips to Northern cities have proved a refreshing break, with the crisp notes of fall in the air and the glorious colors of fall foliage reaching their peak.  Football season is now in full swing, which means my Vikings are off to their usual great start, although I fully expect this will only lead to greater suffering following their inevitable late season (or playoff) collapse. At home, our kids have ascended to new middle and high schools, and are finally accommodating to the increased responsibility and homework loads that resulted.

I am happy to report that the last two months have been an incredibly busy and productive time for the Society, and to relay some of our recent and coming events and accomplishments.  September kicked off with our first ever legislative advocacy day, organized in concert with our partner the NMDP.  A wide range of ASBMT members gathered in Washington, DC to hear updates about legislative and policy issues of concern to the Society, and then directly advocated for our members and patients to a large number of staffers and elected members of the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle.  The event was a strong success, and we expect to continue this effort annually. Ultimately, we hope that this engages more of you as advocates at the local and national level, and also helps us to create a better grassroots response when new issues arise. I encourage all of you with interests in this arena to contact Stephanie Farnia to find out how you can get more involved in these advocacy activities.

September also brought together a revitalized and stronger ASBMT Corporate Council, consisting of industry partners with common interests in hematopoietic transplantation and cellular therapy.  While we will not always side with our corporate partners given our primary focus on the needs of our members and the patients we serve, it was clear that we have strong common goals in numerous areas.  These include a focus on increasing access (e.g., the number of potential patients who can benefit from HCT and cellular immunotherapy who receive consultations), improving education and quality of care, increasing accrual to clinical trials that can advance science and develop new therapies.  We also agreed that we need to continue an honest dialogue about how we can assess the value of novel therapies, and ensure access and financial sustainability when the cost of therapies continues to increase. 

Already in October we had our annual fall meeting of the Board of Directors, who also meet face to face at the Tandem Meetings.  It was a great privilege to gather with the Board, who provided thoughtful and principled feedback about our current priorities and future goals.  One of the topics discussed at length was the Society’s role in T cell engineered therapies, including our scientific, clinical and policy efforts. Given the approval just days later of a second CD19-directed CAR-T therapy for lymphoma, this discussion was particularly timely.  We also thoughtfully discussed how we can improve our working leadership structure.  Among the principles endorsed were a need to rethink our committee leadership structure to encourage more turnover of leadership and to formally engage more junior members of the Society, and a greater role for Board members to promote crosstalk between leadership and our committees, task forces and SIGs.  We will work in the coming months to reaffirm these principles through process changes that we look forward to sharing with all of you. Last but certainly not least, the Board worked with Mike Boo, JD (formerly Chief Strategy Officer for the NMDP) to start a process of strategic reflection that will culminate in 2018 a revised Strategic Plan.  We look forward to hearing from all of you to identify the key areas of priority that can inform this process.

Remarkably, October will also witness two additional ASBMT events, both taking place in Seattle:  our biennial Cell Therapy Training Course (organized with our partner the ISCT) and the 4th Annual Fall Clinical Education Conference directed at advanced practice professionals including NPs, PAs and fellows. I am extremely grateful for all of the efforts of ASBMT and ISCT staff to organize these complex events, and am especially indebted to CTTC chairs (former ASBMT President A. John Barrett and David DiGiusto of Stanford) and the Education Conference directors Carina Moravec, ARNP and Shelly Mentzer, PA-C, for their incredible efforts.  I am also grateful for the partnership of Cath Bollard (President), Queenie Jang (CEO) of ISCT and also to the faculty of the Fred Hutch, and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, sponsor of this year’s Education Conference.

As I hope you can see, your elected leadership and the staff of our Society have been busy. I am so grateful for all of the extraordinary group of individuals (far too many to name) who have voluntarily supported all the critical activities discussed here.  I haven’t even touched on the ongoing efforts related to the 2018 BMT Tandem Meetings, and look forward to telling you more about what will be a very exciting and well attended meeting in next month’s report. 

Until next month, I wish all of you well, and look forward to hearing from you with your feedback and ideas about how we can continue and improve our ongoing efforts.

Krishna