ASTCT asked Dianna Howard, 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?
I trained in internal medicine and pediatrics – leukemia and transplant cut across all ages and gave me a chance to use my training. My first day of fellowship I rounded on the BMT team and I told the person who would become my life-long mentor that I wanted to be a transplanter. It always felt that was where I fit. The intensity of care, the depth of connection, the value of the patient journey – no matter how it ends – fuels something inside me.
How do you inspire others?
I try to role model being a good clinician that champions education and research in our mission. I also share how important it is to be a person that has definition beyond work. I want to help my women colleagues look past the false dichotomies we’ve sometimes been presented with and find a sustainable place in life and career. I also try to engage others in my enthusiasm and belief in the possibilities of big change through advocacy. Working with ASTCT government relations has improved the lives of all transplant and cell therapy patients – not just the ones we individually see in clinic. It feels impactful in a whole new way.
Which living person do you most admire?
It’s probably Angela Merkel – powerful woman leader, a scientist, someone who has navigated both support and opposition with a steadiness and poise.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in this field?
I love this field; I have always felt supported by my peers, even when there were fewer women. There have always been amazing women role models in this field – Mary Horowitz and Stella Davies and many others. What it means has changed over time – now in my career I feel an enormous responsibility to create a space for all. The needs of every generation change and as a woman I feel an added responsibility to help lead the changes that the next generation needs to thrive in this field.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Some days it is having two adult children that bring light, love and intellect to the lives of others. Some days it is the patients that I have now known for many years – whose lives are evidence of the value of our work. Some days my greatest achievement is being part of the team of folks that do amazingly impactful advocacy and health policy work.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Patients. The ones who survive and the ones that don’t. The ones that lead us with clinical trial participation into the next generation of care. The survivors – like my son – that demonstrate resiliency in the face of adversity.
Tags: astct, BMT, Womens History Month, Women, Women's History Month