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Announcement of Awards: Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology, ASH Mentor Awards, and the ASH Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity

Program: General Sessions
Sunday, December 10, 2023: 1:30 PM-2:00 PM
Hall A (San Diego Convention Center)
Robert A. Brodsky, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Brodsky: Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease: Research Funding.


Wallace H. Coulter was a prolific inventor, innovator, and entrepreneur. His Coulter Principle pioneered the development of flow cytometry, defined particle characterization, and made possible automated hematology, thus revolutionizing laboratory medicine. The Coulter Counter led to major breakthroughs in science, medicine, and industry. This award, in his name, recognizes an individual who has demonstrated a lasting commitment to the field of hematology through outstanding contributions to education, research, and practice.

ASH will recognize Blanche P. Alter, MD, MPH, of the National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetic, with the 2023 Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology.  Dr. Alter, a renowned physician-scientist, is being honored for a lifetime of accomplishments that revolutionized research for inherited bone marrow failure syndromes (IBMFS). She is well known within her field for spearheading the first interdisciplinary clinical research program dedicated to investigating cancer-prone IBMFS such as Fanconi anemia (FA), dyskeratosis congenita (DC), Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA), and Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome (SDS). Her groundbreaking research has been invaluable in developing screening recommendations to detect cancer as early as possible and help patients live longer.

Her journey to clinical medicine began as an undergraduate research assistant, but Dr. Alter quickly realized that she wanted to bridge the gap between the laboratory and the bedside. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she pursued a pediatrics residency at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she developed a passion for hematology. The unique manifestations of hematologic disorders under the microscope fascinated her. She was the first researcher to prospectively investigate and quantify cancer rates in FA and DC through a groundbreaking pilot study.

After serving as director of the pediatric hematology unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Dr. Alter completed a master's degree in public health at Johns Hopkins to gain training in epidemiology. Subsequently, at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Alter established a clinical research program that brought together epidemiologic and prospective studies on cancer and genotypes in major IBMFS. Her research has created a comprehensive body of knowledge about these disorders and their manifestations, diagnoses, and genetic causation. Her work has become the model other researchers use to study the mechanisms of cancer development.

As one of five women in a class of 92 students, Dr. Alter’s path to hematology was not without obstacles. Nevertheless, she shattered glass ceilings throughout her medical career, advocating for equal pay and equitable access to education. Her unwavering commitment continues to inspire the next generation of women in medicine. She is a respected authority in her field and a beloved mentor to many early-career scientists. Dr. Alter has been a member of ASH for more than 50 years.


The ASH Mentor Award was established to recognize hematologists who have excelled in mentoring trainees and colleagues. Each year the Society recognizes two outstanding mentors  who have had a significant, positive impact on their mentees' careers and, through their mentees, have advanced research and patient care in the field of hematology.

ASH will recognize Stephen Sallan, MD, of Dana Farber Cancer Institute, with the 2023 ASH Mentor Award. For Dr. Sallan, mentorship remains the most rewarding aspect of his career. He has mentored hundreds of individuals throughout his career who have gone on to become leading investigators in hematology and oncology. His motivation to mentor others stems from the early impressions his own mentors made on him, encouraging him to push the boundaries of cancer medicine while remembering to find joy in his work and to always pass it forward. As a mentor, Dr. Sallan became widely recognized not only for providing his mentees with unparalleled scholarly opportunities but also for actively and selflessly promoting his mentees and propelling them to the next stages of their careers.

He began his journey in pediatric hematology 50 years ago after seeing advancements in treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) skyrocket, with breakthroughs such as immunologic cell surface markers, molecular measures of leukemia, and targeted therapies and immunotherapies. His research focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of the genetic underpinnings of ALL and the reasons for disease recurrence and drug resistance. His laboratory interactions continue to develop novel therapies, such as cancer vaccines, while aiming to reduce the toxicity of treatment.

ASH will recognize Helen Heslop, MD, DSc, of Baylor College of Medicine, with the 2023 ASH Mentor Award. Dr. Heslop is a highly respected mentor who is known for her inclusivity and commitment to helping her mentees advance in their careers. She is an exceptional physician-scientist who has made significant and lasting contributions to the field of hematology. One of her remarkable achievements is her ability to nurture a diverse group of mentees, including female physician-scientists and individuals from backgrounds historically underrepresented in hematology. Many of her mentees have gone on to become successful independent investigators. Among those she mentors, Dr. Heslop is recognized as an ideal leader who is patient, kind, and one who consistently prioritizes the success of her trainees.

Dr. Heslop’s primary research focuses on the development of adoptive immunotherapies. By genetically modifying cells, she has worked to improve hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cancer therapies. She strives to ensure that her findings are translated from the lab to clinical trials to improve the lives of individuals living with cancer and blood disorders.


The ASH Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity honors hematologists who have supported the development of an inclusive hematology workforce, who have encouraged the career development of underrepresented minority trainees, who have made the commitment to inclusiveness in contributions to the mission of ASH, or who have made accomplishments that aim to eliminate health disparities in the care of hematology patients.

ASH will recognize Alexis A. Thompson, MD, MPH, of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, with the 2023 ASH Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity. Dr. Thompson is being honored for her exemplary leadership in addressing the health care needs of an underserved population and for mentoring trainees from communities historically underrepresented in hematology. Her work has focused on patients with hemoglobinopathies, with a particular emphasis on sickle cell disease. She has made significant contributions to this field through extensive publications, clinical practice, and advocacy. Her research has resulted in the introduction of innovative treatments for patients with sickle cell disease and thalassemia, as well as other hemoglobinopathies. Furthermore, she has actively advocated for the inclusion of minority patients in clinical trials, both on national and international levels. Dr. Thompson’s outstanding leadership and unwavering optimism continue to inspire those around her to improve the lives of individuals from minority groups living with blood disorders.

Dr. Thompson takes great pride in her collaborative work with ASH to bring novel sickle cell treatments to the forefront of drug development and gene therapy for hematologic conditions. She is honored to be part of a society that prioritizes innovation, advocacy, and education to improve the lives of individuals living with sickle cell disease around the world.

Since serving as ASH president in 2018, Dr. Thompson has continued her tenure with the Society in various roles, including mentoring trainees through the Society’s Minority Medical Student Award Program (MMSAP) for over a decade. As a mentor to many, her efforts have helped shape ASH recruitment initiatives to strengthen the hematology workforce. She has served as a role model and her positive influence has helped support trainees from groups historically underrepresented in hematology to become future leaders with former mentees acting as MMSAP mentors and serving on ASH’s Minority Recruitment Initiative’s study sections and subcommittees. Dr. Thompson’s pioneering work continues to contribute to a more diverse and inclusive hematology workforce and to model the commitment to diversity and inclusiveness within ASH.

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