The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023. Throughout the year, HemAware.org will be commemorating this special milestone with articles that look back at notable programs, initiatives, and events in NHF’s history.
The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) is dedicated to finding cures for inheritable blood disorders and to addressing and preventing the complications of these disorders through research, education, and advocacy enabling people and families to thrive. As part of that mission, NHF has established a number of fellowship programs to support research and encourage clinicians to specialize in bleeding disorders. Here’s a closer look at NHF’s fellowship programs. (Note: Fellowships are organized by several departments and teams within the organization, and support various health care professions and career stages.)
NHF-Takeda Clinical Fellowship Program
Established in 2003 as a way to generate excitement about the field of hematology and help to increase the number of skilled clinicians committed to specializing in bleeding disorders care, the NHF-Takeda Clinical Fellowship Program has supported more than 43 physicians to date.
Neil Frick, senior vice president for medical programs and information at NHF, says the origins of the fellowship program began during a discussion in NHF’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MASAC). “MASAC members were talking about how our specialized hematologists were retiring, and they weren’t being replaced. So we needed a mechanism in order to replace the hematologists that were no longer going to be in the community years from now,” Frick says.
Takeda (previously Baxter Healthcare Corporation, then Baxalta US, and then Shire PLC) has fully funded this clinical fellowship training program for the past 20 years. Selections are made by an independent peer review panel and physicians receive up to $100,000 per year for a maximum of two years.
The program is designed to provide licensed physicians with hands-on clinical training and prepare them for academic careers in bleeding disorders research. Mentored training takes place at one of 24 highly qualified hemophilia treatment centers (HTCs) located throughout the United States. Of the more than 43 physicians who have participated in the fellowship program, six have gone on to become directors at HTCs, Frick says.
“On a personal note, I am very grateful for these fellowships because it has increased the number of volunteers that I have in the physician community,” he adds. “We give these fellowships and then later on, these physicians give back to NHF by volunteering and staying involved with our community.”
Judith Graham Pool Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
The Judith Graham Pool Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, NHF’s premier research fellowship program, was established in 1972 and is named in honor of the pioneering Stanford University physiologist who discovered the method for creating cryoprecipitate in 1965, which revolutionized care for people with hemophilia. The program celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Each year, the fellowship program commonly known as JGP awards funding to three to five postdoctoral fellows so they can conduct basic science and preclinical bleeding disorders research. Recipients receive up to $104,000 over two years, and all of the funding comes from NHF chapters, families, and family foundation.
The projects of the 104 researchers who have received the award have produced vital insights into hemophilia and other bleeding disorders, contributing to the development of safer concentrates and enhanced methods of testing and screening, and laying the groundwork for current advances in gene therapy for hemophilia. Many JGP recipients say the fellowship shaped the direction of their careers.
“Our main goal with JGP is to bring talent into our discipline and mentor them so that they will hopefully decide to stay and conduct research in this field,” says Maria Santaella, Ph.Dc., vice president of research strategy at NHF. “It’s a way for NHF to nurture those early researchers and encourage them to continue to do work in our community.”
Fellowships for Nurses, Social Workers, and Physical Therapists
NHF also provides fellowships for various members of the HTC interdisciplinary team, specifically nurses, social workers, and physical therapists. NHF selects one person from each category every year, and the recipient receives $15,000 toward their chosen research project.
“Unlike the JGP fellowship, which is mainly basic science and preclinical research, the scope for these awards is broader and may also include translational science to bring new knowledge to the clinical setting, or even new educational programs,” Santaella says. In some cases, two or three members of an interdisciplinary team may apply for the fellowship together, which would allow them to receive up to $45,000 to fund their project.
“I was a nurse at an HTC, and I know from being in the clinic that these disciplines play a very critical role in the care of patients, so these fellowships are a way to support and encourage HTC staffers in these disciplines to conduct research that will benefit our community,” Santaella says.
Jeanne Marie Lusher Diversity Fellowship
NHF’s newest research fellowship program was established in 2021 in honor of a distinguished clinician and researcher who had a tremendous impact on the bleeding disorders community. Lusher authored more than 270 peer-reviewed papers, nine books, and more than 60 book chapters, and chaired or co-chaired numerous scientific symposia and congresses in the U.S. and abroad.
The Jeanne Marie Lusher (JML) Diversity Research Fellowship aims to increase diversity among benign hematologists by fostering a career-long interest in inherited bleeding/blood disorders (IBDs). It is open to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who are enrolled in a doctoral program in a biomedical field relevant to inheritable bleeding/blood disorders. The fellowship provides $52,000 per year for a total of three years to support new clinicians and researchers as well as those who may be in a fellowship program demonstrating interest in basic science and preclinical research blood disorders with the exception of thrombophilia.
In addition to fellowships, NHF also provides grants to researchers who are investigating better treatments and improved care for all inheritable blood disorders.