HemAware is conducting a series of interviews with recipients of the NHF-Shire Clinical Fellowship. It is funded through the generous support of Baxter Healthcare Corporation. The objective of this grant is to increase the number of skilled clinicians committed to providing comprehensive care for individuals with bleeding and clotting disorders and to prepare recipients for academic careers.
This interview was conducted with Neil Goldenberg, MD, PhD, director of research at Johns Hopkins-All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is also director of Hopkins’ Pediatric Thrombosis Program in St. Petersburg and Baltimore. The fellowship was funded from 2005–2007.
Why did you decide to study medicine?
Pursuing a career in academic medicine allowed Goldenberg to combine three lifelong interests—science, English and writing.
What initially attracted you to hematology?
A research project on deep vein thrombosis during his medical school days at McGill University in Montreal prompted Goldenberg’s interest in the field. “I became interested in hematology through a reverse direction from what is typical—through research first,” he says. “Then it was a no-brainer because I really enjoyed the clinical work as well.”
How did the training and mentorship you received as an NHF-Shire Clinical Fellow affect your decision to pursue clinical care and/or research in bleeding disorders?
“The fellowship was critical because it allowed for a very focused training effort in coagulation,” Goldenberg says. Plus, it gave him the financial backing to pursue a research project of interest. “It involved developing and validating a so-called ‘global assay’—the Clot Formation and Lysis (CloFAL) assay—that looks at overall clot formation and clot breakdown functions rather than at a single clotting factor, and applying it to disorders of coagulation and fibrinolysis.” During his fellowship, Goldenberg tested and published findings about the assay in children and adults with hemophilia A and B.
Are you still engaged in the clinical aspects of patient care or bleeding disorders research? What aspect of care are you most interested in?
Goldenberg divides his time among pediatric patients and young adults with bleeding and clotting disorders. His research emphasis is on thrombosis and strokes. “What was quite helpful about the NHF-Shire fellowship is that it was all-encompassing in coagulation disorder care and research. It did not limit its focus to bleeding only.”
Did your NHF-Shire Clinical Fellowship assist in advancing your position at your own institution? Or did it serve as a building block to further your career in coagulation?
For Goldenberg, the answer is both. “The award is very helpful in identifying folks who are committed to developing their careers in this area.” Receiving the award helped him persuade his training directors to permit him to participate in a continuity clinic not limited to the traditional oncology-based experience, but alternately with a coagulation disorder continuity clinic.
The NHF-Shire award served as a cornerstone, paving the way for other awards. “It helps you establish preliminary data that allow you to get other grants,” he says. For Goldenberg, that meant NIH and ASH funding for coagulation research.
Where do you think bleeding disorders research and clinical care may be headed in the near future? In the next decade?
Although admittedly a “tough question,” Goldenberg points to clinical trials designed to establish and optimize efficacy and safety, as well as patient tolerability and quality of life, in products and interventions as the waves of the future, building upon the efforts of the past and present. He also sees an increasing number of studies with a much-needed focus—children. “More and more emphasis is being devoted to pediatric studies, where there’s often very little high-quality data even to support standard care,” says Goldenberg.
When you are not working, how do you relax or “escape” from your work?
With three sons—7-year-old twins and a 5-year-old—Goldenberg’s free time is spent keeping up with their activities. “When I can, I try to do a little bit of athletics myself, but I’m pretty inconsistent,” he says, laughing. Volleyball and soccer are his favorites. So is music.
“I like to play music when I can get people together to join in,” he says. A self-taught blues guitarist, he confesses that he’s “not very versatile.” He’s more confident on the piano, though, which he’s played since he was 6.