President Shalala Receives Public Service Award from Transplant Organization

University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala received a rare honor last Friday — the Public Service Award from the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT).

The award, which goes to an individual who has advanced the interests of blood and marrow transplantation, is not given every year, but only when the ASBMT’s Executive Committee achieves consensus regarding an outstanding candidate. Shalala was recognized specifically for her support for the field as Secretary of Health and Human Services during both terms of President Bill Clinton’s administration.

“You deserve this honor because of all the work you have done in promoting health research, in supporting hematopoietic stem cell transplantation — particularly access to healthcare for children with hematologic disorders — access to novel areas of bone marrow transplantation and cord blood transplantation,” said Sergio A. Giralt, Chief of the Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and ASBMT’s current President, who presented the award to Shalala. “Because of you, we have been able to transplant more people than we have ever been able to transplant before. On behalf of us and our patients, thank you very much.”

In accepting the award, Shalala spoke of the importance of research and the “seismic shift” she has seen it make in some fields.

“To initiate these changes that transform lives in any arena, we have to be willing to be bold — and make a significant investment,” she said. “For that to happen, we need to envision a world several years down the road, when the investment will pay off with treatments that save lives. This has certainly been the case in the field of blood and bone marrow transplantation. Without a dramatic infusion of funding the research that so many of you have led would not have taken place, and the field would not be where it is now.

“It’s imperative that those of us with a voice constantly push for research that will improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. The need for all of us to commit ourselves and this country to again double our investment in basic science, in applied research and in particular in the kind of clinical work this country needs is, I believe, the imperative for the next decade.”

Shalala’s award was given during the 2015 BMT Tandem Meeting, which ASBMT held with the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research in San Diego.

“Having someone of President Shalala’s stature in the medical field as head of the University of Miami has benefitted our own research greatly,” said Krishna V. Komanduri, M.D., Director of the Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program at the Miller School of Medicine’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-chair of the ASBMT meeting. “Her support has inspired us to make significant life-saving advances in research and in the care of cancer patients.”

“President Shalala’s belief in the importance of funding research that is generated by the finest scientific minds has been critical to advancing successes in our field,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Sylvester’s Director and one of the more than 20 representatives from Sylvester who attended the meetings. “Furthermore, as a result of her efforts, more and more patients with potentially curable cancers are able to undergo blood and marrow cell transplants. Our stem cell transplant program is growing by leaps and bounds, allowing us to better serve our community throughout South Florida. We are privileged to have such great leadership at our university and at our medical school.”

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