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2017 AABB Memorial Awards and Lectureships

AABB congratulates the recipients of the 2017 AABB Memorial Awards and Lectureships. All award ceremonies and lectureships will occur during the 2017 AABB Annual Meeting, to be held October 7-10 in San Diego. To commemorate the awards, AABB conducted brief interviews with this year’s recipients, presented here.

 2017 Bernard Fantus Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognizes an individual who made numerous, outstanding contributions to the scientific basis and/or clinical practice of blood banking and transfusion medicine during the preceding 50 years. Recipient is selected by AABB’s Board of Directors, and this distinguished recognition is bestowed at intervals of no less than five years and no more than 10 years.


Harvey G. Klein, MD
Chief, Department of Transfusion Medicine
Clinical Center
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD


For his lifelong devotion to, and leadership of, the field of blood banking as it matured into the discipline of transfusion medicine. For representing the field of transfusion medicine throughout his career, promoting scientific excellence, academic integrity, administrative and regulatory rationality, and common sense. For his guidance and vision, which helped steer our discipline through ongoing threats to the blood supply posed by infectious and transmissible agents. For his outstanding leadership representing transfusion medicine in countless domestic and international venues, both governmental and academic. For his training program, which continues to produce many leaders in the field. For his body of work that guided the field of transfusion medicine in decades past, continues to do so today, and will influence our discipline for decades to come.

Award will be presented at the Opening Session
Saturday, October 7; 8:30 am – 10:00 am
San Diego Convention Center, Room 20ABCD


AABB: Congratulations on receiving this honor. What does being the recipient of AABB’s Bernard Fantus Lifetime Achievement Award mean to you?

Klein: I consider the Fantus Medal an enormous honor. It is humbling to be recognized in this way by your peers and to be included among previous recipients, all of whom I consider to be “Hall of Famers” in Transfusion Medicine. However, the exhilaration comes not so much in receiving a medal as in doing the things that your colleagues now rank as “achievements.” I am reminded of a comment by “Sweet Baby James” Taylor, who wondered how many lifetime achievement awards you can receive before you have to do the decent thing and die.

AABB: You’ve had a long and influential career in the field of transfusion medicine. What do you consider to be some of the most important advancements in the field during your career?

Klein: There have been so many dramatic advances that it is hard to single out a few. When I entered this field, Rh immune globulin was just being introduced and resulted in the dramatic reduction of hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn. Hepatitis viruses infected as many as 30% of transfusion recipients and HIV had not even been imagined. There were no licensed blood screening tests except for surrogate screens for T. pallidum. Now, sophisticated testing and the introduction of pathogen reduction techniques are making blood safer than I ever imagined. Apheresis technology was then in its infancy and now has revolutionized collection of blood components for transfusion, transplantation and cellular immunotherapy, as well as treatment for patients with sickle cell disease and TTP. And molecular medicine – with cloned genes, the human genome sequences, and powerful information technology for bioanalytics – promises to revolutionize our approach to transfusion and cellular therapies. Not to mention the internet, which lets me sit on my deck and update book chapters with access to the world of scientific publication. Who would have thought that medical libraries would become a historical footnote?

AABB: What advice do you have for young professionals starting out in the field of transfusion medicine?

Klein: The clichéd answer is to find an area that excites you so that you will never feel like you are working. This cliché is true. I would add that you should be tenacious. Tenacity is often more important than creativity. And finally, with all the financial pressures, accreditation requirements, and administrative afflictions, never forget why you went into medicine. It is a privilege to practice medicine.

AABB: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Annual Meeting in San Diego?

Klein: As always, I shall be looking for creative and novel science, as well as clinical advances in transfusion medicine. I am also looking forward to presentations by my current and former staff and trainees. I always hope these two things will overlap.

 2017 Dale A. Smith Memorial Award

This award, created in 2002, honors Dale A. Smith, a long-time Baxter Healthcare executive who was responsible for establishing the Fenwal Division of Baxter. This award recognizes groundbreaking work performed in the application of technology to the practice of transfusion medicine or cellular therapies. Recipient is selected by the National Blood Foundation (NBF) Scientific Grants Review Committee with formal approval by the NBF Board of Trustees.


Connie M. Westhoff, SBB, PhD
Executive Scientific Director of Immunohematology and Genomics
New York Blood Center
New York, NY


For her innovative research and vision to bring personalized medicine to transfusion therapy through the use of blood group genomics. Dr. Westhoff is one of the pioneers in developing molecular technologies to predict blood group antigen expression. She is an expert on RH genetic diversity and has provided tremendous insight on how this impacts alloimmunization and transfusion safety, particularly for patients with sickle cell disease.

Award will be presented at the National Blood Foundation Reception (invitation only)
Monday, October 9; 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm


AABB: Congratulations on receiving the Dale A. Smith Memorial Award. What does this award mean to you?

Westhoff: The Dale Smith award is a very special honor for me as it is selected by the National Blood Foundation (NBF). Because I have been a past recipient of an NBF grant, as well as a member of several NBF committees, it is especially gratifying to be recognized with this award. It is an honor to know your work is recognized as making a contribution to patient care.

AABB: Tell us a little bit more about the research into sickle cell disease you are currently leading at the New York Blood Center.

Westhoff: My research goals are to improve blood transfusion safety and efficiency through the use of genomics, especially for patients needing chronic transfusion support, with a focus on sickle cell disease. This work has been supported for nearly 10 years by the Doris Duke Foundation; its success reflects a unique and close collaboration between a blood center and physician scientists directly treating patients. These studies focus on the blood group genetic diversity in the African American population and in the donors, which creates challenges for patient care.

AABB: How can personalized medicine help improve patient care and transfusion safety?

Westhoff: Transfusion medicine is one area of medicine where genomics will have a real impact on practice. Personal health records will soon include your whole genome sequence, possibly even stored in your smart phone. The model is to “sequence once and read often.” Hence, the full extended antigen profile of both our donors and patients will be available to us at low or no cost and the traditional crossmatch can become a true computer bioinformatics match.

AABB: You have been involved in numerous AABB committees throughout the years. Which of these projects have been most influential to the field?

Westhoff: All the numerous AABB committees I have been involved with have contributed to my professional and personal growth. I would have to say that my involvement with NBF has been a highlight; I have seen first-hand the power of this program to make a difference in transfusion medicine research by supporting young careers.

 2017 National Blood Foundation Award for Innovative Research

This award (formerly known as the David B. Pall Prize for Innovative Research and the Jack Latham Memorial Award for Innovative Research) was established in 2016 to recognize a scientist whose original research resulted in an important contribution to the body of scientific knowledge in transfusion medicine or cellular therapies. Recipient receives a $1,000 honorarium supported in 2016 by Blood Systems, Inc. Recipient is selected by the National Blood Foundation (NBF) Scientific Grants Review Committee with formal approval by the NBF Board of Trustees.


Stephanie Eisenbarth, MD, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Laboratory Medicine, Immunobiology
Section of Allergy and Immunology
Yale University School of Medicine
New Haven, CT


For her 2012 NBF-funded research on “Identifying Innate Immune System Pathways Critical for RBC Alloimmunization.” Dr. Eisenbarth’s research has been instrumental in helping to determine why some patients become alloimmunized after transfusion. She has published 24 articles in scientific journals based in part on her NBF-funded research.

Award will be presented at the National Blood Foundation Grant Recipients’ Lecture and Luncheon (advance registration and ticket required)
Saturday, October 7; 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm


AABB: Congratulations on receiving the 2017 National Blood Foundation Award for Innovative Research. What does this award mean to you?

Eisenbarth: This is a wonderful honor from a group of physician-scientists I admire and respect. Many of the members of the transfusion community (including in the NBF and AABB) helped me set up the necessary murine models to address mechanistic questions that we observed clinically. I am grateful for their help and support and for recognizing our work.

AABB: How did receiving a 2012 NBF early-career grant boost your career in research?

Eisenbarth: Investigating the immunologic pathways operational in red blood cell (RBC) alloimmunization is an area that has been extremely difficult to support through NIH-based mechanisms. Therefore, support from the NBF launched projects that would not otherwise have happened. Further, this particular award is granted at a very early career stage and, therefore, is instrumental in funding a young lab and investigator when preliminary data is limited. It is a truly outstanding award mechanism.

AABB: Your work on alloimmunization has been influential to the field. How can this research translate into further progress for patient safety?

Eisenbarth: We and others are actively working on taking the fundamental understanding of how immune cells initiate the immune response to alloantigens on transfused RBCs and translating this into clinically feasible interventions that block this early step in alloimmunization. For example, from our work, we realize that interfering with dendritic cell function could block the immune response to allogeneic RBCs. We are attempting to do this in pre-clinical models.

AABB: What or who inspired you to become a researcher?

Eisenbarth: My father. He was an incredibly passionate physician scientist whose primary goal was to cure type 1 diabetes.

 2017 Emily Cooley Memorial Award and Lectureship

This award began as a lectureship in 1963 and was designated as a Memorial Award in 1983. The Emily Cooley Memorial Award and Lectureship recognizes an individual who has demonstrated teaching ability and has made a major contribution to the field of transfusion medicine or cellular therapies. Recipient is selected by a joint committee composed of leaders from the Cellular Therapies Section Coordinating Committee and the Transfusion Medicine Section Coordinating Committee with formal approval by AABB’s Board of Directors.


Dennis Goldfinger, MD
Clinical Professor (retired)
UCLA, Depatment of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Division of Transfusion Medicine
Los Angeles, CA


For his leadership in transfusion medicine and his prominence as clinician and educator. His contributions include leukocyte reduction, diagnosis and management of immune hemolytic anemia and therapeutic apheresis as a recognized tool in the treatment of a host of human diseases. Additionally, for his significant impact on the next generation of transfusion medicine leaders. He has trained and mentored more than 40 transfusion medicine fellows and hematologists.

Award will be presented at the Emily Cooley Memorial Award and Lectureship
Sunday, October 8; 8:30 am – 9:10 am
San Diego Convention Center, Room 20A


AABB: Congratulations on receiving the Emily Cooley Memorial Award and Lectureship. What does this award mean to you?

Goldfinger: AABB has always been the center of universe for blood bankers. When I attended my first AABB Annual Meeting in 1970, I saw that there were two most important awards that were given out each year: The Karl Landsteiner Award and The Emily Cooley Award. I was particularly attracted to the Emily Cooley Award and to the list of eminent blood bankers who had received this honor. I wondered, as a 27-year-old physician, if I could ever actually receive this award, and thought it unlikely. Now, as I finish my career in this field nearly 50 years later, winning this honor represents my single greatest achievement, and says that I have reached the pinnacle of my profession. It also tops off my love affair with AABB.

AABB: What do you consider to be some of the most important ways in which the blood industry changed throughout your career?

Goldfinger: I would say that the two biggest changes that have taken place in the last 50 years are the incredible strides toward making transfusion safer from the perspective of disease transmission, through disease marker testing and through pathogen inactivation. Blood transfusion has become an incredibly safe medical therapy. Second, the moving away from immunohematology as the focus of transfusion medicine, due to great strides in preventing immunohematologic complications of transfusion, and on to clinical understanding of how blood components should be utilized. Evidence-based transfusion practice is now the goal of our profession.

AABB: You have trained and mentored numerous transfusion medicine specialists. What has been the most rewarding aspect of this?

Goldfinger: Training and mentoring transfusion medicine specialists had been the single greatest achievement of my life. Every young person that I have influenced has become part of my family and a great source of pride.

AABB: We understand you recently retired. What’s next for you?

Goldfinger: Retirement is not something that I ever contemplated. Now I see that other aspects of life can become the source of great excitement and happiness, and after 50 years it’s time to move on. I have changed the focus and direction of what I want from my life, and I am truly very happy with recognizing that I am not too old to do some of the things that I have always wanted for myself. I hope that life is just beginning for me, and that is so unbelievable – and sooo cool!

 2017 Hemphill-Jordan Leadership Award

This award, renamed in 2005 after Bernice Hemphill, W. Quinn Jordan, and Joel Solomon, honors leaders from the transfusion medicine and cellular therapy community. The award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions in the areas of administration, quality programs, law and/or government affairs. The individual has demonstrated leadership qualities and a consistent willingness to lend his/her expertise to his/her peers. The award may recognize one particular act or an accumulation of contributions throughout many years. Recipient is selected by a joint committee composed of leaders from the Cellular Therapies Section Coordinating Committee and the Transfusion Medicine Section Coordinating Committee, with formal approval by AABB’s Board of Directors.


Brian Custer, MPH, PhD
Associate Director
Blood Systems Research Institute
San Francisco, CA


For his significant, long-term contributions to blood-safety research since 2003, and for his influence in helping U.S. policy-makers set and revise regulations related to blood donation. Additionally, for embodying the spirit of this award through his consistent willingness to lend expertise to peers and colleagues around the world.

Award will be presented at the Hemphill-Jordan Leadership Award and Lectureship
Monday, October 9; 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
San Diego Convention Center, Room 30ABC


AABB: Congratulations on receiving the Hemphill-Jordan Leadership Award. What does this award mean to you?

Custer: It is a true honor to receive this award and I would like to acknowledge all of the people who advocated on my behalf. I am particularly proud to receive this award given its name and focus, and cannot help to mention I work in the same building, Irwin Memorial in San Francisco, where Bernice Hemphill was a tireless leader seeking to improve blood banking and research. I am honored and humbled to receive the Hemphill-Jordan award.

AABB: You’ve been researching and working in blood safety since 2003. What have been some of the most important changes in blood safety you’ve seen in your career?

Custer: First, I think there is one aspect of blood safety which continues to be reinforced: Blood safety is not an outcome but a destination we seek. New threats and new opportunities continue to emerge. During my career, the focus on evidence-based policy has become more tangible. We face diverse and varied threats to the safety of transfusion – each blood safety issue is unique and requires a breadth of considerations. For example, the ability of test manufacturers, blood centers, and regulators to respond to the Zika virus threat, in months rather than years, is not something I would have predicted in 2003. We continue to make progress toward a more comprehensive approach, but have room to do better in integrating multiple factors.

AABB: Much of your work has focused on shaping transfusion medicine policy throughout the world. Can you share an example or two of how changes in policy have led to improvements in patient and donor safety?

Custer: I hope that my work contributes to a balanced approach to understanding and addressing blood safety threats. Understanding which threats have the greatest potential impact on patients is not straightforward. Upstream of specific policy decisions are the studies that assess which threats are true risks. When I started working at Blood Systems Research Institute, it was at the time of West Nile virus (WNV). The WNV research and modeling – and later the T. cruzi work – showed how my research helps to define better calibrated donor screening strategies that protect recipient health. More recently, my work related to preventing adverse reactions in donors and modified donor acceptance criteria, such as the studies related to blood donation from men who have sex with men, seek to recognize and reduce harm to those persons who give their time and donate their blood so patients who require transfusion have access to a safe and adequate supply.

AABB: Your citation for this award mentions your “willingness to lend expertise to peers and colleagues around the world.” What have you learned from your exchanges with colleagues from throughout the world?

Custer: The opportunity to collaborate with international colleagues is a privilege for which I am particularly grateful. I have learned so much, it is hard to say in which areas international collaboration hasn’t affected the approach I take to all of my research, including U.S.-focused projects. Blood safety is a global issue. The interaction with peers and colleagues around the world provides me with insights into how different jurisdictions approach and address blood safety. Furthermore, when we work together as an international community, we provide the greatest potential for consistent evidence gathering, which I hope in turn can lead to more coherent policies and a safer blood supply for recipients throughout the world.

 2017 John Elliott Memorial Award

The John Elliott Memorial Award, established in 1956, recognizes an individual who has given outstanding service to AABB by demonstrating a willingness to lend his/her expertise to the association through work on committees, the AABB Board of Directors and other areas. Recipient is selected by a Joint Committee Comprised of Leaders from the Cellular Therapies Section Coordinating Committee and Transfusion Medicine Section Coordinating Committee.


J. Daniel Connor, MBA, CPA
President and CEO (retired)
Blood Systems Inc.
Scottsdale, AZ


For his many years of dedicated service as a member of the AABB Board of Directors and various AABB committees. Connor served as AABB’s President in the Association Year 2008 and now serves on the National Blood Foundation Board of Trustees. He has generously contributed a vast amount of time and expertise to AABB and has been a leading pillar in the blood banking community through his consistent willingness to lend expertise to peers and colleagues around the world.

Award will be presented at the Transfusion Medicine Section Business Meeting and Luncheon
Sunday, October 8; 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm


AABB: Congratulations on receiving AABB’s John Elliott Memorial Award. What does this award mean to you?

Connor: I view being recognized with the John Elliott Memorial Award as an incredible honor and constitutes an incredibly warm farewell to what has been an unexpected career path. Although I worked in this field for 43 years, I have no formal training or education in healthcare; I relied on an amazing network of mentors and colleagues who taught me so much and encouraged me along the way. After reviewing the list of previous awardees, it’s humbling to be considered for inclusion with so many outstanding leaders and innovators in our field.

AABB: You were the chief executive officer for Blood Systems, Inc. for 21 years. What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned during your tenure?

Connor: Some of the lessons learned which I’m happy to share with others include:

(A) Nothing is more important than having the right team whose members respect each other, share common value and goals, and have each other’s backs.
(B) Once you have the right team, stay out of the way and allow them to be successful.
(C) Perfection is not attainable, but the constant striving to achieve excellence is what’s important.
(D) Research must be a core competency of any organization that claims to be a leader. It requires an ongoing commitment and cannot be something you do only when you think you can afford to do so.

AABB: You served as AABB President in 2008. What do you remember as being the defining issues of your tenure?

Connor: I recall a lot of discussions, sessions and talks related to TRALI, Chagas disease, WNV and efforts to mitigate the risks of transmission via transfusion. These were part of the overall focus on hemovigilance/biovigilance that took center stage not only during my presidency but for several years prior to, and after, my term.

AABB: We understand you recently retired; what’s next for you?

Connor: My focus in retirement will, first and foremost, revolve around family: traveling, experiencing, learning and enjoying new things with my wife, Sue; visiting, playing and enjoying being with our six children, five sons/daughters-in-law, and nine grandchildren. I am already enjoying not waking up to a 5:30 alarm clock each morning! Sue and I will continue to work with our favorite local nonprofits. Then there are choices that will need to be made among taking cooking classes, learning to play the guitar and finally working on reducing my golf handicap by five strokes!

 2017 Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award and Lectureship

Initiated in 1954 to honor Karl Landsteiner, MD, whose lifetime research laid the foundation for modern blood transfusion therapy, this award recognizes a scientist whose original research has resulted in an important contribution to the body of scientific knowledge. The scientist who receives the award should have an international reputation in transfusion medicine or cellular therapies. Recipient is selected by AABB’s Board of Directors.


Irving Weissman, MD
Ludwig Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research at Stanford University
Stanford, CA


For his pioneering role in identifying and isolating the first hematopoietic stem cells in mice and humans in the 1980s and early 1990s. His continued efforts to characterize adult stem cells from human tissues and cancers have broad clinical implications due to his work in translating basic science discoveries into clinical applications. His public advocacy for stem-cell research in Congress and other venues has also been of great importance.

Award will be presented at the Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award and Lectureship, sponsored by TerumoBCT
Tuesday, October 10, 2017; 8:30 am – 10:00 am
San Diego Convention Center, Room 29CD

AABB: Congratulations on receiving the Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award and Lectureship. What does this award mean to you?

Weissman: As an immunologist, the advances by Karl Landsteiner were critical not only to the field, but my entry into the field. The principles of immunology that came from his seminal discoveries in blood typing set the stage for understanding not only how the immune system functions, but also how it distinguishes self from non-self. This same set of questions led Ray Owen to explore anomalies of blood typing in Freemartin cattle, which, in turn, led to the fields of immunological tolerance, clonal selection theory and the exploration for the cells that can maintain blood production for life. Those subjects were the context in which I worked out the origins of T cells in the thymus, the development of these T cells in the context of immune tolerance to transplantation antigens, and eventually the origins of T and B and other cells from blood forming stem cells.

AABB: What do you see as some of the most important clinical applications of stem cell research?

Weissman: Blood-forming stem cells [HSC] to date are included in transplants of bone marrow, or mobilized blood, or umbilical cord blood. They are the only cells in these tissues that regenerate the blood-forming and immune systems for life. In autologous transplants to allow higher dose systemic chemo or radiotherapies for cancer, the presence of contaminating cancer cells in the tissues is dangerous, and we have shown that it is possible to identify, isolate and transplant essentially cancer-free HSC. In our study on women with metastatic breast cancer, this resulted in a much higher incidence of progression free survivals of more than 15 years. In allogeneic [donor-to-host] transplants of marrow or mobilized or umbilical cord blood, the contaminating T cells cause graft vs host [GvH] disease, while purified HSC regenerate the host without GvH. This opens the door to purified allogeneic HSC transplants to replace genetically defective or otherwise damaged blood and immune systems of the recipient. We have shown that healthy HSC can replace not only defective HSC in blood deficiency disorders, but also replace autoimmune systems in mouse models of type 1 diabetes and systemic lupus erythematosus. We have also shown that engraftment of donor HSC lead to transplantation tolerance of HSC donor organs, tissues and tissue stem cells. Because of these findings, it is likely that HSC allotransplants from living humans or human pluripotent stem cell derived HSC. If and when that happens, will establish the field of regenerative medicine.

AABB: You have publicly advocated for stem cell research on numerous occasions. Why is it important to garner public and governmental support to this research?

Weissman: There are many advances happening in stem cell research that are unfortunately the targets of political and religious criticisms – criticisms that are surrounded by unproven claims that we don’t need stem cells, and/or nothing has been accomplished with stem cells of fetal tissue or pluripotent stem cells. These claims are used to ban these avenues of research that, given the mounting progress, will at some time prevent patients with incurable or very difficult diseases from having potentially curative therapies. Current state, national, and international political bodies need to have accurate information to decide on the value of helping or saving lives with this research as distinct from their own political or religious beliefs.

AABB: Can you give us a preview of some of the topics you plan to discuss during your lectureship at the 2017 AABB Annual Meeting?

Weissman: I will cover issues related to the clinical applications of stem cell research. I will also cover the emerging field of the genesis of cancer stem cells by mutations or other changes in gene expression from normal tissue stem cells, such as leukemia stem cells from HSC. From this, I will cover how having these purified cancer stem cells can lead to therapeutic potential, and one example of how it led us to the field of programmed cell removal and its prevention in cancer stem cells to develop a potential therapeutic intervention in, at least, patients with cancer.

 2017 Sally Frank Memorial Award and Lectureship

The Sally Frank Memorial Award and Lectureship was established in 1982 in memory of Sally Frank and her dedication to red cell serology and education. This award recognizes an individual who is, or has been, a medical technologist involved with these fields and has demonstrated quality research, teaching and/or service abilities in the technical aspects of immunohematology. Recipient is selected by AABB’s Transfusion Medicine Section Coordinating Committee with formal approval by AABB’s Board of Directors.


Greg Denomme, PhD, FCSMLS(D)
Director of Immunohematology and Transfusion Services
Senior Investigator
BloodCenter of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, WI


For his lifelong achievements in the field of platelet- and red blood cell-immunohematology, pathobiology and molecular diagnostics.

Award will be presented at the Sally Frank Memorial Award and Lectureship
Saturday, October 7, 2017; 2:00 pm – 5:30 pm
San Diego Convention Center, Room 32AB


AABB: Congratulations on receiving the Sally Frank Memorial Award and Lectureship. What does this award mean to you?

Denomme: I recognized early on that the bench skills needed in transfusion medicine were not something taught in a classroom setting. The people that influenced me all had a laboratory medicine background. They helped lay a foundation rooted in a keen sense of scientific inquiry and a dedication to detailed observations, translating research successes to the clinical laboratory. These skills define Sally Frank awardees and I am honored to be included among the ranks.

AABB: Can you give us a preview of some of the topics you will be covering during your presentation at the 2017 AABB Annual Meeting?

Denomme: Many people do not know but will quickly nod and say ‘oh yeah’ when they realize that Landsteiner’s work and the establishment of blood banks was one of the first examples of precision medicine. The use of Rh immune globulin beginning in the mid-1960s and more recently, RHD genotyping to resolve weak D phenotypes, and the provision of antigen-matched blood to specific patient populations are also examples of precision transfusion medicine. I hope to take the audience through a precision transfusion medicine journey from antigens on the red cell surface to the effector cells involved in immune-mediated hemolysis.

AABB: Your center, Blood Research Institute at BloodCenter of Wisconsin, has been a leader in precision transfusion medicine. How do you see precision medicine influencing the future of transfusion?

Denomme: I think of precision transfusion medicine as ‘smart’ immunohematology. It is the use and develop of blood group serology and genetics in innovative ways that are aimed to improves transfusion quality and patient safety. It is possible that genotype ‘dry’ matching of blood donor and recipient will be routinely practiced in the near future. I anticipate that immunohematology will go through a paradigm shift much like it did with the introduction of the electronic crossmatch.

AABB: What advice would you give early-career lab professionals?

Denomme: There is a real need for highly skilled immunohematologists. I worked for a dozen years before committing to a PhD in immunology. Having an ART (Canadian equivalent of an SBB) and years of bench experience made the graduate experience all that much more interesting. Whatever your career goals are, get involved in new idea discussions, embrace change, and participate in innovation. You are on the right track if you find yourself volunteering for projects. Continue to tap into your creative edge.

 2017 Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award and Lectureship

This award honors Tibor Greenwalt, MD, who was the first registrant at the first AABB Annual Meeting and founding editor of “Transfusion.” The award recognizes an individual who has made major scientific or clinical contributions to hematology, transfusion medicine or cellular therapies, and succinctly communicated these advances. Recipient is selected by a joint committee composed of leaders from the Cellular Therapies Section Coordinating Committee and the Transfusion Medicine Section Coordinating Committee, with formal approval by AABB’s Board of Directors.


Martin L. Olsson, MD, PhD
Professor of Transfusion Medicine
Medical Director of the Nordic Blood Group Reference Laboratory
Lund University
Lund, Sweden


For his outstanding achievements in the study of the molecular genetics of red-cell surface antigens, particularly carbohydrate histo-blood group systems (e.g., ABO and P1PK), DNA-based blood group typing, and blood-group related host-pathogen interactions. His work has led to the recognition of three blood group systems (GLOB, FORS and VEL). He is also well known for his ability to make complex biological processes understandable to people outside of the field.

Award will be presented at the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award and Lectureship
Sunday, October 8, 2017; 9:20 am – 10:00 am
San Diego Convention Center, Room 20A


AABB: Congratulations on receiving the Tibor Greenwalt Memorial Award and Lectureship. What does this award mean to you?

Olsson: Needless to say, I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award. Even if I have received awards from other organizations including the ISBT, BBTS and the Swedish Society of Transfusion Medicine in the past, I was really surprised and feel very proud about this one, since it is my first from AABB. Also, it is of course overwhelming to receive an award that commemorates one of the legends in our field. It is pretty daunting to realize that Dr. Greenwalt had already been the founding editor of Transfusion for five years when I was born.

AABB: Tell us a little bit more about the work carried out by Lund University to improve compatibility between donors and transfusion recipients.

Olsson: In Lund, Sweden, we were quite early to adopt the molecular revolution and started offering blood group genotyping as a clinical service in the mid-1990s. We also performed fetal blood group typings, first on cellular DNA in amniotic fluid and, later on, free fetal DNA in maternal plasma. Since 2001, we have officially served as the Reference Laboratory for the countries in the Nordic region, using DNA-based blood group typing to resolve blood group discrepancies in blood donors and patients. The service has also been open to other countries, and especially for genetic typing of carbohydrate-based blood groups we have received patient and donor samples from all continents.

We were also involved in an EU project which resulted in the first microarray-based blood group genotyping platform to be CE-marked for clinical use. Today, we provide red cell units with extended blood group matching to all chronically transfused children and many of the adults to minimize immunization. We also screen blood donors for rare blood group alleles to increase the availability of special units. Finally, we have a very active research program aiming to reveal the molecular and genetic bases of orphan blood group antigens and so-called emerging blood groups. Not until we know what genetic polymorphism underlies a certain phenotype can we implement molecular typing to detect it.

AABB: How can the ability to identify more precise differences between blood groups lead to improved patient outcomes?

Olsson: I will give you a couple of examples: If we are not sure what ABO or RhD blood group a donor has, then we cannot use his or her blood for transfusion to patients. Also, if a certain patient requires blood of a special type, it is crucial for the blood service to know which donors have this type. In the future, it is not unlikely that we can grow designed red cells suitable for a certain patient, particularly those in need of chronic transfusions and of unusual phenotypes. Also, molecular characterization is now part of complicated antibody work-ups to make sure that patients get the right kind of blood.

AABB: As an international member, how did you first get acquainted with AABB?

Olsson: I think I first got in contact with what was then the American Association of Blood Banks when I published a paper in Transfusion 1996, then went to the AABB Annual Meeting the year after. On site in Denver, I watched two of my role models in the field, Prof. David Anstee and Dr. Geoff Daniels, receive AABB awards. Little did I know that some 20 years later, I would get the honor myself.