ASTCT asked Melody Smith, MD,MS questions about what it is like to be a a person of color in the transplantation and cellular therapy field in celebration of Black History Month, February 2022.
What inspired you to enter the BMT and Cellular Therapy field?
Diversity pipeline programs had a major influence in identifying and nurturing my interest in BMT and Cellular Therapy. As a medical student, I conducted research thru the American Society of Hematology Minority Medical Student Award Program, and I had to the opportunity to research in a BMT lab. Later in medical school, I spent a year at the National Institutes of Health in a BMT lab through the Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP, formerly the Clinical Research Training Program). After both experiences, I was inspired to pursue a career in BMT. Subsequently, during my fellowship I was exposed to cellular therapy through both clinical and research opportunities.
How do you inspire others?
Over the course of my education and training, I benefited from diverse mentors who encouraged me along the way. As I start my independent lab, I am mindful of opportunities that will allow me to inspire and mentor young, diverse talent.
What does it mean to you to be a person of color in this field?
Per data reported by ASCO in 2021, less than 4 percent of medical oncologists in the US are Black. Specifically, within the area of BMT and Cellular Therapy I would extrapolate that the percentage of Black physicians is much lower. So, as a Black woman in this field, I am mindful of the dearth of Black oncologists, particularly those practicing in BMT and Cell Therapy. Hence, it is important for me to approach my practice and research with an awareness of how these disparities in healthcare providers may disproportionately impact underrepresented minority patients.
About Melody Smith, MD, MS:
Dr. Melody Smith received her MD with Distinction in Research from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. She also completed an internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University Texas Southwestern. She subsequently moved to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) to complete her fellowship in Hematology & Medical Oncology. She joined the faculty at MSK in 2015 as an Instructor of Medicine on the Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Service, and she was promoted to Assistant Member Level 1 in 2017. During her time as junior faculty at MSK, she obtained a Master of Science from Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Clinical & Translational Investigation.
In September 2021, she joined the faculty at Stanford University as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy in the Department of Medicine. As a physician-scientist, her independent research in the lab will focus on strategies to develop cellular immunotherapy from allogeneic as opposed to autologous sources. She will also investigate the regulatory mechanisms for the impact of the intestinal microbiome on CAR T cell outcomes.
Regarding her involvement within ASTCT, Dr. Smith currently serves as the co-chair of the ASTCT Junior Faculty and Trainee Committee as well as the co-chair of the ASTCT Women and URM SIG. She will also be participating in ASTCT Leadership Course in 2022.