In a Year Fraught with Challenges, Remember Our Strengths

I feel as though all of my president’s messages this year have started with COVID-19.

It’s hard not to see why. The coronavirus pandemic has altered everything we do and how we view the world—for better and for worse. Usually this time of year, we all sit back and reflect on our successes and challenges. But for many of us, we just want to move past 2020 and leave it behind.

However, I do think it serves us well to look back—even amidst a year we’d all like to forget.

I want to start with the 2020 TCT Meetings of ASTCT and CIBMTR. This time last year, many of us were probably booking our tickets to Orlando and planning out some of the sessions we hoped to attend. For me it was particularly special, as it was my first as the ASTCT President. And while we didn’t know it then, the 2020 meetings were the last chance many of us had to connect with one another face-to-face.

Those meetings were fantastic—and not just in hindsight. The quality education, the speakers and the fellowship all gives us fuel to move forward. This year in particular touched on some groundbreaking research that is propelling our field forward.

Another thing I’m particularly proud of this year was the willingness to pivot from the normal. Our Leadership Course, for example, switched from a days-long retreat to a year-long touchbase where mentors and mentees were able to work together to solve real-life problems. We also moved our Fall Clinical Education Course (CEC) online and the feedback from attendees was phenomenal. The online format was engaging, informative and well-attended.

There were a lot of other firsts for ASTCT, too. Amid racial unrest in our country, we hosted our first-ever Town Hall on race. It was an insightful and important conversation that needed to be had. It also solidified what we can do as a Society to support diversity and inclusion. One of those ways is the development of the ASH-CIBMTR-ASTCT Career Development Award Program. This program will develop hematologists from underrepresented backgrounds by providing them training, mentorship and support.

We also announced the new name of our journal, TCT Journal. This rebrand effort will help us reach the next generation of science and expands our scope to include cellular therapy. When we unveil it officially in January 2021, it will be another step in the right direction toward innovation.

There were a lot of wonderful things that happened this year, often in spite of the bad. As we move closer toward a vaccine and begin living our “normal” lives again, I urge you to remember the strength you found when times were hard, the friends and colleagues you leaned on (or who leaned on you) and the shining spots amid a year full of dark ones.

While we put 2020 behind us, let’s continue pushing the envelope in 2021.