Interview with Education Program co-chairs Alison Loren, MD, and Anita Rajasekhar, MD
What were your goals in crafting this year’s education program?
Dr. Loren: Dr. Rajasekhar and I aimed to create a program that offers novel, exciting, yet accessible content for every attendee. We know there are certain conditions that the hematology community wants to hear about every year, but we also felt that new topics and concepts were important, such as long-term survivorship and minimizing late effects of treatment for blood cancers where outcomes have improved significantly. We also wanted to highlight psychosocial and economic issues, such as costs of therapy and access to care.
Dr. Rajasekhar: I wanted to make sure this year that any attendee, whether virtual or in person, could find interesting, relevant, and cutting-edge sessions. We wanted sessions that spoke to all attendees – clinicians and scientists, pediatric and adult hematologists, nonmalignant or malignant hematologists, and trainees and senior faculty. The nonmalignant education program sessions were specifically designed to tackle common consults that hematologists face routinely – challenging disorders where approaches to diagnosis and management may vary, and topics in which recent advances have occurred.
We worked closely with the Scientific Program co-chairs to ensure that the breadth and depth of hematology progress was covered throughout the program. We hope that attendees will find that the Education and Scientific programs harmonize well without significant overlap. We are also proud of the diversity of our speakers – they represent the gender, ethnic, and geographic diversity of our attendees.
How does this year’s program differ from previous meetings? Did the hybrid platform affect the program planning?
Dr. Loren: This year will assuredly be different from every other year because of the hybrid platform! We anticipate that the live question-and-answer sessions in particular will make for compelling viewing, as we anticipate being able to field questions from both live and virtual attendees.
Dr. Rajasekhar: These last two years have been in flux for us all. With all the uncertainty, ASH has done a tremendous job adapting to a hybrid platform, with the primary goal of providing a safe and engaging format to deliver hematology information to its attendees. Preserving what worked well last year, many sessions will be prerecorded to allow attendees to digest content on their own time, but the live question-and-answer sessions are when the most flavorful discussions occur.
This year, we also introduced an expanded form of the Poster Walks within multiple hematology topic areas, which will provide a virtual curated overview of selected abstracts, followed by an interactive question-and-answer period among the session organizers, abstract authors, and virtual audience.
Dr. Loren: In addition, we anticipate several COVID-19–focused sessions and interesting content regarding its impact on the field of hematology – both COVID-19–induced hematologic disorders and how COVID-19 affected delivery of hematology care.
What are the “must-see” sessions that attendees should put on their agendas?
Dr. Loren: This is a little bit like asking a parent to name their favorite child! There are a few sessions focused on the concepts of cure and survivorship, including in Hodgkin lymphoma and allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. I hope the latter will appeal specifically to providers who do not primarily practice in a transplant center but assume care for transplant recipients. Similarly, the session about ensuring access to transplantation will highlight broad and important themes about justice and access to care that are widely translatable across hematology.
Dr. Rajasekhar: Luckily, with the Education Program sessions being prerecorded, attendees will not feel the pangs of missing out on the incredible content. I’m confident everyone will find interest in the Spotlight Session, “Financial Stewardship in the Era of Hematologic Advances in Care: Whose Value? What Price?” A panel of experts will debate the cost and value of various emerging therapies for hematologic disorders. This session will have attendees critically analyzing how, as a medical community, we can approach the issue of the added cost and added value of promising therapies.
Dr. Loren: I’m very excited that we are offering an “Immunology 101” session on the fundamentals of immunology for hematologists who might not have visited this topic since their medical school days. Immunotherapy and immune complications of treatment are increasingly important in hematology. The speakers were specifically chosen to provide a strong background with an eye toward how the basics apply to novel therapies.
Dr. Rajasekhar: Of course, no annual meeting is complete without the Plenary and Late-Breaking Abstract sessions. This year’s programming is no exception and will be sure to have attendees on the edge of their seats!
What sessions are on your “must-see” list?
Dr. Rajasekhar: There are several sessions directly relevant to my day-to-day practice as a nonmalignant hematologist, including “Clotting and Bleeding Conundrums,” which will provide a practical approach to the most cryptogenic cases of bleeding and thrombosis that keep me up at night.
With the rapidly changing landscape of therapies available for sickle cell disease, I will be tuning in to the session on “Management Strategies for Sickle Cell Disease” to gain a better understanding of how to incorporate new medications into my treatment paradigm and approach complex complications in sickle cell disease.
As a hemostasis and thrombosis clinician, I work very closely with our laboratory specialists in challenging diagnostic cases. Therefore, I am looking forward to the “Coagulation Laboratory Potpourri” session, which will be a practical update on ordering and interpreting coagulation tests and avoiding common testing limitations and pitfalls.
Dr. Loren: We are also very eagerly looking forward to the sessions about novel trial designs and how these can contribute to best use of new therapies. These sessions will also feature a new format, with four to five speakers and a moderator in a roundtable discussion or debate format.