What Identity Crisis?

In his September issue Editor’s Corner, “Our Identity Crisis,” ASH Clinical News Editor-in-Chief Mikkael Sekeres, MD, MS, embarked on a quest to determine “who we are and what we do as hematologists.” However, not all readers had the same unanswered questions about their identity. Here, Stephan Moll, MD, discusses some of the advantages of being easily identified as a coagulationist.

Dear Dr. Sekeres,

Identity crisis? I really don’t have an identity crisis! I’m a coagulationist. I love being a coagulationist.

As a teenager, I wanted to be an astronaut. I was seriously interested in astronomy. I calculated – just for fun – distances from the sun to earth at various times of its elliptical orbit around the sun. I built a replica of the Saturn V rocket with Apollo capsule and moon-landing module out of a Coke bottle and a Kraft paper mailing tube. I had a poster of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon on my bedroom wall and created a space flight poster of my own. I read aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun’s biography.

What a thrill it was when, in the second part of 2018, I received a call from NASA. From NASA! They wanted my expertise as a coagulationist. I was invited to join a group of experts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss the potential impact of zero gravity and space travel on cardiovascular risk and the challenges of preventing, diagnosing, and treating thrombotic and hemorrhagic complications, were they to occur during space travel. Given the plans for resumption of manned flight to the moon and exploration of Mars, NASA wanted to understand the effect of space travel on the coagulation system and the clinical management of coagulation disorders.

My meeting with NASA took place earlier this year. I got a VIP tour of the facilities – including the astronaut training sites with their life-sized International Space Station (ISS) replicas, the diving pool to train in zero gravity–mimicking conditions, the ISS control room, the hypo- and hyperbaric chambers. I had coffee with a real astronaut, face-to-face, at Starbucks! I talked to intensely committed, detail-oriented flight surgeons, researchers, and administrators, discussing coagulation, thrombosis, and bleeding. What a fascinating experience; what a fascinating group of people; what unique aspects of physiology, pathophysiology, and medicine.

I love being a coagulationist. I don’t have an identity crisis.

Stephan Moll, MD
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Chapel Hill, NC