Women's History Month Spotlight: Betty Ky Hamilton, MD

ASTCT asked Betty Ky Hamilton, MD questions about what it is like to be a woman in the transplantation and cellular therapy field in celebration of Women's History Month, March 2023. 

What inspired you to enter the BMT and Cellular Therapy field?

Although I may have initially been a budding solid tumor oncologist when I first entered hematology/oncology fellowship, my first inpatient rotations were in leukemia and BMT. I fell in love with taking care of these high acuity and complex patients, and the long-term patient-physician relationships I witnessed and began to form myself. I was also excited by the many research opportunities in BMT and in particular, the challenges and potential for research in graft-versus-host disease. Importantly, the leadership and mentorship of physicians such as Brian Bolwell, Matt Kalaycio, Ed Copelan, and later Navneet Majhail, helped to inspire the love of the clinical care of our BMT patients and foster research to improve the outcomes for our patients.

How do you inspire others?

I hope that I bring enthusiasm, passion, and gratitude to my work. I think its important to enjoy what you do and show that excitement to inspire others. It can be increasingly challenging in today’s world as we are increasingly pulled in many directions, or to be available all the time, at both work and at home. However, I strive to be present and to be focused and attentive in the moment and where I am needed at the time.

Which living person do you most admire?

It is hard to choose just one person, but I think of 2 groups of people—first, my family—each with different qualities, but my parents and my two older sisters are the most hard-working, self-sacrificing, humble, caring, and strong people I know.

I also think of a number of my patients—survivors of BMT especially those who live with GVHD-- I am inspired by their grace and perseverance in adversity, and deep gratitude despite challenges they may face.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in this field?

I am really proud to be a woman in this field. The future is bright and inspiring. Every time I attend a conference or collaborate and interact with colleagues, I am excited and energized to be surrounded by a group of amazing, strong, smart, and supportive WOMEN, who I see as present and future leaders of the field. I am grateful to many of the early female leaders in the field like Mary Horowitz and Stephanie Lee (as well as many others- male and female!) who have really paved the way and supported young investigators in BMT.  

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Most of the time I consider my three children as my greatest achievements! While they are still young, they are intelligent, athletic, creative, hard-working, empathetic, and often, hilarious. I hope they continue to see the values of hard work, perseverance, teamwork, compassion, gratitude in the work that they see me and my husband do as physicians, researchers, and leaders in our field. 

Who are your heroes in real life?

During residency my husband I were in Africa and we were on a trip driving through the desert in Namibia when we got stuck in the sand. It was dusk and there was not any help in sight when suddenly from nowhere another couple in a truck with a rope came by to pull us out. It turns out that the couple was a nurse and a pharmacist. We joked that it was certainly not the first nor the last time we would be saved by a nurse and a pharmacist…  and now, I often say BMT is a team sport. There are so many every day heroes (nurses, advanced practice providers, pharmacists, social workers, administrators, research coordinators, physician colleagues, mentors) that I am fortunate to work with that help us do what we do and do it well. My family—my husband and children are also my heroes—they are my home team—who are there to support me at home and in my career, unconditionally.

Tags: Womens History Month, board of directors, Women