ASTCT asked Rayne Rouce, MD 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?
Unlike many, I didn’t always know I was destined to work within the transplant and cell therapy field. My exposure was a bit later than most, as a pediatric hematology oncology fellow. I found myself drawn to patients with the most difficult-to-treat leukemias and lymphomas, and was in some ways haunted by the deaths, the toxicity, the suffering of my patients with refractory disease. The prospect of harnessing the immune system to treat refractory hematologic malignancies in a targeted, less toxic manner that also preserved quality of life drew me to cell therapy. I was fortunate to be surrounded by “cell therapy royalty” in the form of my mentors, Helen Heslop, Clio Rooney, Cath Bollard, Malcolm Brenner and Katy Rezvani who taught me how to translate novel cell therapy products from bench-to-bedside.
How do you inspire others?
Inspiring others is perhaps the most important role I play. I am a Grade A Peptalker, drawing from the numerous inspirations I’ve had throughout my career. In some ways, just having a seat at the table is an inspiration to aspiring female physician scientists, especially those of color. My personality is bold and I make no apologies for that-I’m a pediatrician wherever I go, drawing strength from the resilience of my patients and their families, and using that to in-turn inspire others. I’ve been known to create “Pre-Game” raps for mentees, that they can play and recite when they need an extra pick-me-up, which is something I’ve often done for myself, and truly inspired by some of my all-time favorite artists and athletes.
What does it mean to you to be a person of color in this field?
Everything. It means everything. It means that every single thing I do, every task I take on, every challenge I face, is worth it. It means I am not only achieving for myself, but for those who will follow me. I am one of few…for now. Soon we will all be surrounded by talented transplanters and cell therapists of color. I know this because every single day I meet a bright med or grad student, college student, or even middle/high school student who proclaim “I’m going to do what you do one day.”
Is there anything else you would like to say to the ASTCT community?
Every single day, we likely inspire several people. Some we know, and some we don’t know. Let’s use those opportunities for greatness.
About Rayne Rouce, MD:
Dr. Rouce is a pediatric oncologist and physician scientist with clinical interests in leukemia and lymphoma, specifically how to harness the immune system to recognize and attack tumors. As a clinical and translational investigator conducting immunotherapy trials within the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at BCM, she has significant experience in every aspect of translation and clinical trial development, designing and implementing first-in-human clinical trials. She has specific interests in ensuring access to cellular therapies for pediatric patients, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or geographic location. She leads the Immunotherapy Fellowship at BCM, is the Pediatric Clinical Cell Therapy Lead at CAGT, and the Associate Director of Clinical Research Operations for Cell and Gene Therapy at TXCH. She holds leadership positions within the field of cell and gene therapy within ASTCT, ASGCT and ASH, leading diversity and inclusion initiatives with a special focus on mentoring and creating pipelines. She also is the Associate Director of Community Outreach at BCM, leading STEM programs for K-12 and undergraduate students.