September is always an exciting time for members of the Society of Hematologic Oncology (SOHO). The month brings the Annual Meeting in Houston, Texas. It is an amazing forum to hear updates in leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and transplant, while allowing for the flow of ideas and collaboration among colleagues. From my perspective, the meeting’s sole focus on hematologic malignancies and the absence of parallel sessions set it apart from other conferences, making it one of the best meetings in the world.
I have long appreciated SOHO’s mission to educate and elevate the standard of education, promote health care excellence, and deliver the best care to patients around the world. As SOHO members, we can actively help achieve these goals by holding smaller meetings in different countries and regions. Recognizing that only a few privileged individuals can attend the annual meeting in Houston—which reflects the inequality in who can access that education—our solution is to bring the knowledge right to the doorsteps of clinicians and researchers worldwide.
As a board member of SOHO Italy and SOHO Turkey, it has been very satisfying for me to see chapters emerge in new regions. Throughout the years, I have seen interest from local partners in different regions in holding meetings in their own countries and tailoring the content according to their region’s needs.
This year, following the Eleventh Annual Meeting, regional meetings will take place around the world, including an event held by the new Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Chapter that I’m proud to have initiated. The first official MENA meeting holds personal significance for me as I hail from Lebanon, and we are thrilled to host the chapter’s inaugural meeting at the Lebanese National Library in Beirut on September 29-30, 2023.
This meeting will gather world-class faculty from across the globe, some joining virtually, to educate local attendees from Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and beyond. It’s a major opportunity to share the knowledge we gain from the annual meeting in Houston with those who live in these regions, collaborating with local experts to deliver essential science and knowledge.
For the MENA Chapter, this is only the initial step in a long-term collaboration with SOHO to take up the Society’s mission to educate clinicians worldwide. As a SOHO ambassador, it is personally fulfilling to witness the creation of our own local meeting, and to have a direct role in mentoring clinicians in the region.
Of course, other SOHO regional meetings will be taking place worldwide, from Italy to the Gulf region. All of these initiatives align with our values of enhancing knowledge and patient care. Beyond these directives, regional meetings build a network of collaboration, nurturing rising stars in research and health care. These efforts are vital and ensure excellence and support in our medical pursuits.
Establishing collaboration and disseminating knowledge are at the heart of our mission. We’re turning the tables, bringing education to the regions. It’s about inclusion, gathering outstanding minds to exchange ideas and information. This purpose, fundamental from the beginning, guides us forward.
Elias Jabbour, MD, is a Professor in the Department of Leukemia, Division of Cancer Medicine, at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.