12.11.20

TCT Travel Grant Brings People Together—and Moves People Forward

When it comes to the TCT Meetings of ASTCT and CIBMTR, Muhammad Bilal Abid, MD, MCRP, knows it’s all about planning.

The assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of hematology/oncology and infectious diseases at the Medical College of Wisconsin knows exactly where he wants to be and when he needs to be there. It’s part of his strategy to get the absolute most out of the meetings.

“Before I go to the meetings, I do my homework,” he laughed. “I know exactly what my interests are and I find those sessions. I connect with the experts ahead of time, too, and I get lucky if they give me time there.”

Abid is one of the many people who received a TCT Travel Grant, which helps individuals travel to the meetings. These funds are supported by charitable donations given to the Society.

When he attended on the scholarship in 2019, Abid was still in training. As a specialist in infectious disease and hematology/oncology, Abid knew the importance of connecting with others who share his passions. Specifically, he wanted to talk about his research into how the gut microbiome can be manipulated to enhance responses to advanced immune engaging cellular therapy.

While in Houston in 2019, Abid happened to be discussing his hypotheses with others at MD Anderson who were studying the same thing. By meeting and discussing his research—and by hearing what experts in the field thought about his particular theory—got him thinking. Meeting others in his niche expertise, especially when they had similar hypotheses, allowed Abid to make professional contacts from around the country whom he still is in contact with today.

“I was constantly getting ideas,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Okay, what if we tweak this? Oh wow, maybe we can try this.’ Your project really gets to move.”

Abid said as a young investigator, it was especially important. Being able to immerse yourself in scientific research and network with some of the biggest names in the field can be a life-changing experience. For him, it was one that he will look back fondly on for years to come.

“As a junior faculty or resident fellow, this is the best decision you can make,” he said. “If you have an idea, attending this meeting with materialize it. If you don’t have an idea, but you have an idea of where you want to go, this meeting will help shape your focus. And if you don’t know anything at all, this meeting will allow you to choose your direction. You can’t go wrong.”

He said he was grateful for ASTCT’s support, as well as the support from all those who donate to ASTCT.

“I got to attend this meeting through generosity,” he said. “If you helped give me that kickstart in my career, whatever I do moving forward, you will have made a contribution to the fundamentals of that learning and research.”

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