Translational Research Training in Hematology, or TRTH, is a training workshop sponsored jointly by the European Hematology Association (EHA) and the American Society of Hematology (ASH). TRTH is a highly competitive program with more than 100 trainees from all over the world competing for 20 slots in this year-long training program. Trainees are selected by a committee of world-renowned scientists based on the quality of their research proposal, but also, and more heavily, on their anticipated trajectory as future leaders in hematologic research. The program starts in March with an intensive week of small and large groups discussion, feedback and mentoring around the research proposal, continues through the EHA Congress in June, and wraps up at the ASH Annual Meeting in December. This spring we welcomed our ninth class of trainees.
The program is open to trainees with a PhD, PharmD, MD, or a combination of those degrees. Indeed, 73% of the trainees have an MD, with 57% of those either entering the program with a PhD or working on their PhD when they arrive at TRTH. This means that 68% of the trainees are earning or already hold a PhD, with 27% having a PhD alone. The personal and professional background of the attendees is varied, but these young researchers strongly bond over a sincere passion for research and a genuine will to help each other succeed. Indeed, at a social event, you will often hear heated debates about the relative merits of different strategies for murine studies, or thoughtful advice on managing laboratory efforts while completing clinical training. Based on feedback from past trainees, the major strengths of this program are threefold. First, attendees closely interact in an informal and relaxed setting with leaders in translational research, getting one-on-one mentoring and ad hoc feedback from established researchers who would otherwise be difficult to approach. The faculty is in fact selflessly and enthusiastically committed to not only improving the research plans of trainees, but also to helping them navigate a path to career development and transition from mentee to mentor. Second, the selection committee evidently has a gift in selecting a group of trainees that are not only passionate about science, but also outgoing, generous with advice and truly nice people to get to know. In fact, strong bonds, research collaborations and true friendships have been born by attending TRTH. It is not unusual for trainees to remain in close contact, fostering potential collaborations for the future, and trying to get together for annual meetings around the world. Third, the spring course provides unique scientific training on hematology-centered topics and techniques. Participants receive personalized feedback on their own projects and training on project design, grant writing and chalk talks. The location is an additional highlight of the spring course. Tucked away in northern Italy, the course takes place in an oasis of beauty. It represents a break from the frenetic city lifestyle and offers the peace of mind and fulfillment of senses that is conducive for productive thinking and happy brainstorming. Trainees have consistently spoken in the highest terms of the quality of the retreat location.
It is the hope of EHA and ASH that the trainees will go on to become leaders in translational research in hematology. Roughly 90% of the trainees remain in an academic research setting after completing the program; approximately 10% have either gone to industry or have taken clinical positions without a translational research component. At our last survey, roughly 50% of the trainees reported current appointments as faculty at the Assistant Professor level or higher, or as Group Leaders or Laboratory Directors. An additional 40% of trainees were still completing some aspect of training—postdoctoral fellowship, additional clinical training, or instructorship in transition to a first independent position.
TRTH puts significant emphasis in helping trainees identify the critical features of a successful grant application, and at the last survey in which we asked such questions 90% of trainees had been successful in securing funding from institutional, governmental, ASH-EHA, philanthropy, or pharmaceutical industry sources. Support for continued training has come from a variety of national or international fellowship opportunities, including Marie Curie, La Caixa, EHA Non-clinical Junior Research Grants, the José Carreras Fellowship, and the EHA-JSH Exchange Fellowships in Europe and Research Training Award for Fellows and Scholar Awards from ASH in North America. Trainees have moved their research forward in their newly independent positions through Starting Grants from the European Research Council and Non-Clinical Advanced Research Grants from EHA, and Mentored Career Development Awards including various K-level grants and the Robert Wood Johnson Amos Faculty Development Program in the United States. Local, national, and international foundation awards are also well represented among TRTH trainees.
In summary, TRTH represents an intensive mentorship program for young scientists committed to a career in translational research in hematology. It is our hope that the program will continue to foster the development of future leaders in hematology, who will themselves serve as mentors for TRTH participants in the near future.