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Honor for WCM-Q alumnus

Dr. Yazan Abou-Ismail and Dr. Peter Kouides at the American Society of Hematology conference.
Dr. Yazan Abou-Ismail and Dr. Peter Kouides at the American Society of Hematology conference.

A WCM-Q alumnus from the Class of 2014 has had his research abstract named among the best by the American Society of Hematology.

The American Society of Hematology is the premier and largest hematology conference in the world, attended annually by around 20,000 attendees. For any specific research category, the committee reviews the abstract submissions, and selects the top six studies worldwide to be presented as an oral session.

Dr. Yazan Abou-Ismail, who is now in the third and final year of internal medicine residency training at Rochester General Hospital and will be specializing in hematology and oncology, submitted the abstract for his research on von Willebrand Disease, a hereditary bleeding disorder. Competing against almost 200 other abstracts on the disease, Dr. Abou-Ismail’s was chosen as one of the top six. He then presented it in front of an audience of 400 specialists and was presented with the abstract achievement award for the research.

Dr. Abou-Ismail said: “Having the opportunity to present our research at such a prestigious setting was a surreal experience. As an internal medicine resident, speaking to a hall filled with around 400 worldwide specialists and experts on bleeding disorders with decades of experience was certainly intimidating. However, it was phenomenally rewarding to witness their interest in our results and learn that they were impressed with our work. That is the point where I felt like I had made the first truly impactful step in my career as a future hematologist, just two days before learning that I had successfully matched into it.

“There is nothing more rewarding than learning that the countless hours of hard work and dedication have paid off by resulting in tangible data and receiving that magnitude of national recognition.

“I was overwhelmed with exhilaration when I first found out we were selected. I admit that I had to read the email several times to make sure I had not misunderstood. I am beyond grateful towards my residency program and my mentor for all their support.”

The idea behind Dr. Abou-Ismail’s research - ‘Outgrowing’ the Laboratory Diagnosis of Type 1 Von Willebrand’s Disease: A Two-Decade Study - was proposed by his mentor, Dr. Peter Kouides, an award-winning and international expert on bleeding disorders.

Von Willebrand disease is the commonest hereditary bleeding disorder and arises from a qualitative or quantitative deficiency in von Willebrand factor (vWF), a multimeric protein that is required for platelet adhesion and plays a vital role in blood coagulation. Because of this deficiency, affected patients have an increased tendency towards life-threatening bleeding, and often require hemostatic therapy before undergoing any procedures. However, Dr. Abou-Ismail said that the experts’ experience at the hemophilia center where he works shows that there is a tendency for some patients to ‘outgrow’ the disease and normalize their measured vWF defects as they age.  

It was decided, therefore, to design a retrospective cohort study testing the theory that some patients do grow out of the disease as they get older.

A database of 266 patients with von Willebrand disease was formed, 126 of who were included in the study, and their disease history – spanning 20 years - collated.

The results found that in about 20-30 per cent of patients with von Willebrand disease the levels tend to completely normalize with age over an average period of 10 years.

Dr. Abou-Ismail said the study is the largest of its kind to date, and the first to be done in a US population. He hopes it will generate new hypotheses and help determine whether rescinding the diagnosis helps preclude the need for hemostatic therapy, which has its own risks for patients, such as thrombosis, hyponatremia, and transfusion reactions. The results also encourage a clinical practice change, as physicians should consider retesting the levels 5-10 years after the initial diagnosis of the disease is made.

The abstract has been published in Blood Journal with the preliminary data, and a full length manuscript is in progress.