Bria Carrithers, a fourth-year student at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, is one of 24 medical students nationally to be selected by the American Society of Hematology to participate in the 2020 ASH Minority Medical Student Award Program.
The program encourages underrepresented minority medical students to pursue careers in hematology by supporting them as they conduct their own hematology-related research project in the lab of a research mentor. Each participant is paired with two ASH mentors: a research mentor who will oversee the research project, and a career-development mentor who will guide the participant throughout his or her experience and beyond.
Carrithers’ research mentors are Drs. Sophie Lanzkron and Lydia Pecker, hematologists at Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center in Baltimore, who are nationally recognized for their work with adult and pediatric sickle cell patients.
She first connected with Pecker at the American Medical Education Conference in Philadelphia last year, where she was presenting work she’d done during MCG’s summer Medical Scholars Research Program with MCG hematologist Dr. Betty Pace. Her career-development mentor for the program is Dr. Stacy Arnold, a pediatric hematologist oncologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
Carrithers, an Albany, Georgia, native who is completing the clinical portion of her medical education at MCG’s Southwest Campus based in her hometown, is interested in researching what adult sickle cell disease patients know about their own fertility. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she is completing her research virtually, working to create a survey to determine what adult patients at Hopkins know about how their fertility is impacted by their disease and how it will affect future family planning.
“I am excited to have received this award, especially to continue moving clinical research forward in the field of sickle cell disease,” she says.
Carrithers, who says she’s known she wanted to be a physician since she was 7 years old, when she realized she had never seen a physician of color, is planning to pursue an internal medicine residency and eventual hematology/oncology fellowship. Her dream is to return to her hometown and open up her own comprehensive sickle cell center.
Participants in the program receive funding to help cover their research projects as well as additional benefits to attend the ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition, where they will present their research findings at the Promoting Minorities in Hematology event, a reception that showcases the society’s diversity initiatives.
They will also receive ASH membership throughout medical school and residency.
ASH offers multiple options to accommodate the schedules of medical students interested in the program. Medical students can participate in a summer-long program, a year-long program, or a flexible program, which allows them to spread out a shorter research experience throughout one year. These varied options fill existing gaps at critical stages of training in the longitudinal pathway from medical student to hematologist by providing minority trainees with additional opportunities for conducting hematology research and interacting one-on-one with research and career development mentors.
“The ASH Minority Medical Student Award Program tries to foster a more diverse workforce by introducing underrepresented minority medical students to hematology early in their careers with a supportive learning and mentorship experience. Congratulations to the awardees,” says 2020 ASH President Dr. Stephanie Lee, associate director of the clinical research division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “I hope program participants will find that this is the beginning of their long, successful careers in this field.”
The MMSAP is one of six programs under ASH’s Minority Recruitment Initiative, a series of programs committed to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities training in hematology-related fields and the number of minority hematologists with academic and research appointments.