An Institutional Membership Opens Doors for Everyone

When Dr. John DiPersio looked around at his colleagues—people who were integral parts of the cellular therapy and BMT team, ranging from nurses and PAs to physicians—he realized something that concerned him: Not all were members of ASTCT.

The former ASTCT president—and deputy director of the Siteman Cancer Center and professor in medicine in the Department of Medicine, Oncology Division at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis—wanted to change that. He knew that everyone could benefit from having an ASTCT membership, but also understood not everyone could afford the individual costs.

“We have this entity that is dedicated to cellular therapy and BMT,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we want it to be more accessible to everyone?”

ASTCT announced last month that it would be offering a new type of membership: Institutional Affiliate Membership. The new system allows institutions or organizations to purchase memberships as a group, offering a single invoice for multiple affiliate members. This type of membership offers the same benefits as an individual one: Access to the communities, ability to join a SIG or committee, and a subscription to BBMT, to name a few.

The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of the first programs to purchase this type of membership, offering spots to various members of the cellular therapy team. DiPersio said this was something he has wanted for a long time. And he’s seen that offering several members of the same institution a package deal can work. This fall, the university hosted the ASTCT Clinical Education Conference and paid for several members of their hematology/oncology department to attend.

DiPersio shared it was great for the staff to learn together as a unit; it built enthusiasm among the team—not only for their roles in the department, but also for their work in general.

“It’s self-evident to me that being able to access education brings the quality of training and education for each member higher, so they have a much better perspective on what they’re doing and what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm, too, at just meeting other people who are faced with the same challenges you are every day.”

He’s not alone. Rocky Billups, vice president of operations at Sarah Cannon, said his team was ecstatic when they found out ASTCT would be offering institutional memberships. He and the physicians at Sarah Cannon were advocating for it before it was officially announced.

 While many of the physicians can afford or maintain a membership, he said there are other important members of the cellular therapy and BMT team that can’t.

“People pay out of pocket and can’t get reimbursed for it,” he said. “It made me think: ‘Is there a better way to do this?’”

Sarah Cannon plans on funding several memberships and offering them for free to people on their team: Quality coordinators, nursing directors, social workers, and pharmDs. These are important voices in the process, he said, and ones he hopes to see become more actively engaged in the society.

“This will get them involved—they can participate in the webinars, or access the education, and come to the events,” Billups said. “This was something we had to translate to them on what was missed. Now we can open the doors for them directly.”

Billups encourages more institutions to consider getting institutional membership for staff and offering spaces for various members of their BMT and cellular therapy teams.

“It’s really important for institutions to buy into this membership for those key stakeholders,” he said. “This can have a huge impact on our BMT programs. It gets people engaged, it benefits the hospital, and it promotes what the entire team does.”

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