Earlier in May, I finally caught up with The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Personally, I liked the first Lego movie better. Irrespective, the theme song for both movies is “Everything is Awesome” and it got firmly stuck in my head – like CXCR4 sticks to hematopoietic stem cells, though sadly I don’t have a "plerixafor” to "unstick" the song from my grey matter!
The protagonist of the movies is Emmet Brickowski (get it – from Lego ‘Brick…’) who is always upbeat irrespective of what the world throws at him. Having the song loop in my head has definitely elevated my outlook to life and I am now among the converted who believe in "think positive do positive." I may have been caught humming the tune in clinic or in a meeting or on a conference call, and I almost blurted it out during our staff meeting the other day when our cancer center’s RVU and budget data were being reviewed. The song also reminds me of what we do in BMT and cell therapy: …everything is cool when you’re part of a team!
A personal highlight for May was ASTCT’s inaugural Leadership Course. This has been a long-standing priority for the society, and it was really exciting to see this come to fruition. We had 12 exceptionally talented participants, with a mix of physicians and administrators, who are early BMT and Cell Therapy program leaders or are ready to step into such roles.
Over a day and a half, a group of very distinguished faculty who are in their own right established leaders in the field, led a boot camp where they pulled from their own experiences to provide foundational tenets on how to be successful as a program director. Self-awareness as a leader, leading teams for results, growing your program, how transplant and cell therapy is paid for, working with your BMT administrator, setting up and growing clinical and translational research programs, communication, and advocacy are examples of topics that were covered. Over dinner, we mixed wine and good food with open discussion on a variety of topics such as work-life balance, implicit and explicit bias, personal and professional growth, and unique issues for women in leadership positions, among other things.
Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received, there is a clear need for our society to continue this initiative, and in fact, explore opportunities to provide more such training. I do want to point out that 10 among the 12 participants were women, who were selected not because of their sex but the merit and strength of their applications. This reflects the future of our field and I am very proud of several initiatives at the ASTCT that are focusing on supporting our women and underrepresented minority members. I will encourage you to read a participant perspective written by Dr Jodi Skiles.
Another big event for the society in May was our first Hill Day. This is a continuation of the major investment in time and resources that the ASTCT has made in the policy area. I sincerely want to thank several volunteers from our Government Relations committee (a new committee!!) and Executive committee who landed on the Hill to educate our legislators and policy makers and advocate for Medicare coverage for CAR-T cell therapies and reimbursement for unrelated donor transplantation. Focus on this area is important for providing access to transplantation and cellular therapies for our patients and reinforces the role of ASTCT as a leader in this field.
That’s all folks! Have a great spring and don’t forget to sign up for or renew your ASTCT membership.