Meet Robin Foà, our Volunteer of the Month
- Can you tell us what you do for EHA and when you started?
I have been a member of EHA from its beginning and have participated in all EHA Congresses. I have been Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the 4th EHA Congress, Barcelona, 9-12 June 1999. Then, EHA Councilor up to December 2002, member of the Education Committee up to December 2005, EHA Councilor from 2007 and Member of the Education Committee between June 2009 and June 2013. I was EHA President-Elect in the years 2007-2009, EHA President in 2009-2011, EHA Past-President in 2011-2013, Chairman of the EHA Education Committee from June 2013 to June 2017 and Chairman of the Outreach Unit up to June 2017. As of June 2017, I am member of the Global Outreach Program Committee of EHA.
I have been Associate Editor of The Hematology Journal, the previously official EHA journal up to December 2002 (Editor-in-Chief John Goldman) and then Editor-in-Chief between January 2003 and December 2004. From January 2005 to February 2008, Editor-in-Chief of Haematologica-The Hematology Journal, the previous journal of EHA, together with Mario Cazzola.
Together with Gina Zini, we gave birth to the Tutorials that over the years have been conducted in all parts the world. Through my roles in the society, I have been particularly keen in broadening the connections between EHA and hematology societies around the world, strongly believing that this should be a primary mission of a growing organization like EHA.
- What is your motivation on volunteering for EHA?
Having been involved with EHA from its birth, over the years I have appreciated its growing role within Europe. In terms of sharing science, promoting educational programs, helping to harmonize the growth and formation of hematology fellows and more. Once well established, it was mandatory for EHA to expand these goals and activities beyond the boundaries of Europe. And this has meant relationships and joint programs around the world that have expanded over the years: from Japan to China, to Taiwan, to Argentina, to Russia, to India, to Sri Lanka, to the Baltic States, to Poland, Israel, Lebanon, the Middle East, the Gulf Area, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Armenia, and many more. With one common theme, that of interacting with the local realities and developing shared joint projects tailored according to the different realities. And, along the same line, projects to help good, motivated and talented young hematologists worldwide through the establishment of grants, awards, dedicated long-term projects, exchange programs, and so on.
- Why did you choose to serve EHA?
Having been involved from the start of EHA and having covered different roles within the society for more than 20 years, I have witnessed its progressive growth over time. The strong belief of the cultural role of Europe, of the necessity of interacting with other realities in different parts of the world and – as we advance in our career (and age…) – of the importance of mentoring for the younger generations of hematologists to come, have been over the years and still are further driving motivations.
- What does volunteering for EHA give you/do to you?
It has been well over than 20 years an extra part of my professional life, on top of the other responsibilities, i.e. heading a large Hematology Center in Rome, coordinating the research projects, teaching, and more. Not just a further feather in the cap but, as I always used to say, an active involvement within EHA had and has to be a dedicated commitment in order to accomplish results, give birth to new initiatives, and so on. Not only a meeting now and then. Clearly, having been President of EHA and Chairman of different committees the degree of involvement is important. I must, however, say that for me the return has by far overcome the commitment. It has meant interacting with dedicated colleagues all over the world, creating functional networks, seeing over the years young colleagues moving forward in their career, many becoming internationally recognized key figures in hematology, helping young people in less resourced countries, contributing to create non-existing facilities and more. All this has been and still is, for me, highly rewarding. And with many colleagues this has become over time a true friendship.
On a more personal note, I love travelling and photography. Something that goes back to when I was very young. All the activities we promoted with EHA worldwide gave me further opportunities of travelling and knowing people from different realities and context. This is witnessed also in the NEWS section of my photography website (www.robinfoa.it) where I have dedicated NEWS to Brazil and India heavily hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul thinking of the many colleagues in those countries with whom, through EHA, we have actively interacted over many years. And in these last days our thoughts go the people/friends in Lebanon. With EHA we have been to Beirut many times for Tutorials and in fact the first Highlights from EHA was organized there.
Difficult not to ask ourselves if the future will allow EHA to promote initiatives in the same manner or if we have witnessed a very lucky period of overall stability. Nobody can foresee what the future will look like with the Covid-19 pandemic and with the many unstable situations in different parts of the world. I remember that in the past we had to cancel a number of EHA events due to the local realities, but we always more or less managed to go back and fulfill the moral obligation. The planned Tutorial in Hong Kong in April of this year had to be cancelled. Will it be doable in the near future?
- What would you say to others who would like to volunteer for EHA as well?
Based on my long-lived experience, I can only strongly recommend considering the possibility of getting involved with EHA. But – as already mentioned – it should not be considered as a sort of personal recognition, but rather as the desire to join a team and be an active player in a highly reputable organization. You need to dedicate time to the commitment. It will be on top of other duties, but it will be highly rewarding. For me, it has been a major part of my life and the memories of what has been achieved in both hematologic and personal terms are highly gratifying.