On Thursday 6 February 2020, the EAHAD Annual General Meeting took place in The Hague, Netherlands. During the meeting, the EAHAD members voted and elected Professor Flora Peyvandi as the new president of our association. Prof. Peyvandi succeeded Prof. Michael Makris and will hold the position for the next two years (February 2020-February 2022).
To get to know more about Prof. Peyvandi’s background, her vision and plans for EAHAD over the next two years, we asked her to answer a few questions.
For the few who may not know you, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I attended medical school at the University of Milan, specialising in adult haematology. I did part of my PhD project in London and worked at the Royal Free University on the molecular characterization of rare bleeding disorders. Following that, I moved to Harvard University in Boston, focusing on the production of the recombinant protein and the biochemical characterization of rare bleeding disorders, particularly FVII deficiency.
I returned to Milan and joined the research group under the supervision of Professor Pier Mannuccio Mannucci. After his retirement, I became responsible for the haemostasis and thrombosis research group at the university, which at the time was comprised by approximately 50 people. I am a physician, directing the Internal Medicine/Haemostasis and Thrombosis Unit, seeing patients every day, but remain in touch with my haemostasis research lab.
For more than 20 years, I have been collaborating with different organisations, like the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH), the European Haemophilia Consortium (EHC), the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), and, of course, EAHAD, now being the association’s President. I am very interested in the field of education.
I have also been involved in humanitarian projects in different countries around the world (Zambia, Afghanistan). As you can imagine, the facilities, as well as the options in diagnosis and treatment there are vastly different compared to what we are used to in Europe.
Prior to becoming president, you were a member of the EAHAD Executive Committee for a number of years. What initially motivated you to get involved?
I was involved in EAHAD even before becoming a member of the Executive Committee! I remember when Prof. Mannucci and others started to think about the need of a European organisation that would enhance haemophilia and bleeding disorders care in Europe, take care of issues with EU legislation as well as with the heterogeneity between countries. Even back then, I strongly believed that we should work together on a European level to help raise the level of haemophilia and bleeding disorders care for the benefit of centres, healthcare professionals, and patients.
What would you say are currently the main priorities of EAHAD?
Currently, we are living in one of the toughest times for Europe. The Novel Coronavirus has created new obstacles in terms of scientific progress and patient care. More than ever before, we need to maintain an active dialogue not only between professionals but also with the patient organisations. As scientists and physicians, we need to support our work not just for the sake of science. We must use our experience and skills to help the patients with bleeding disorders.
But, even without taking SARS-CoV-2 into account, we are living in interesting times in terms of treatment choice. There are so many novel drugs and every one of them should be studied and examined thoroughly and closely in terms of efficacy and safety. All outcomes should be made available and fully understood by our community. I think EAHAD has a central role to play here both with our work throughout the year and with the information presented during our Annual Congress.
What do you hope to achieve during your two years as president?
I am very happy with how EAHAD has evolved since its inception. We now have more than 2000 delegates attending our Congress every year. But I am sure we can do even more in the future.
Ceaseless support of haemophilia and bleeding disorders research is essential. The work already done with the different EAHAD Research Grants is fantastic and I want to see even more exciting projects bear fruits.
I would also like to see all members of our committees and working groups be actively involved in the association and have a clear idea of what needs to be done in order to achieve even greater levels of success for EAHAD.
I would aim for our Congress to be not only a showcase of high-quality scientific content but also a platform where the issues of heterogeneity between European countries are tackled. Facing these European disparities – legislation, level of care, access to treatment – is what makes us different from other international bleeding disorders organisations.
A final goal would be for EAHAD to be able to react in a fast and efficient way when an emergency occurs. A great example is the current Covid-19 pandemic, for which we created a new EUHASS Covid-19 reporting module and a dedicated working group, trying to understand the needs of our centres and see if patients with bleeding disorders are at different levels of risk.
You are working in Milan, one of the cities most heavily affected by Covid-19. What are the main challenges for the haemophilia and bleeding disorders healthcare community and EAHAD?
We have more than 500 Covid-19 patients in our hospital. We discovered that there is a higher coagulability in these patients, especially those in ICUs. Because of that, we must understand how Covid-19 affects patients with haemophilia and bleeding disorders. Fortunately, currently there does not seem to be a strong association between haemophilia and Covid-19, but continuous evaluation is necessary.
In Milan, we have a 24h service for haemophilia patients. We have not received any Covid-19-related requests from them so far, which means that patients with coagulopathies are not at high risk of Covid-19.
Covid-19 will also have huge financial repercussions for organisations and associations around the world. We need to work together with our pharmaceutical industry partners in novel ways to make sure that we are ready for any major development or change. This would include the educational initiatives of our association and, if needed, the way our congress is organised. The digitalization of EAHAD for meetings, education and all other activities is going to be very important in the future.
You were the Co-Chair of the ISTH 2020 Congress, that was to take place in Milan, Italy, from 11 – 15 July, before being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. What is the one piece of advice you would give to Prof. Michael Makris, President of our EAHAD 2021 Congress, taking place in Manchester, UK next February?
In January when the awful Covid-19 situation started in Milan, I was worried first and foremost about my patients but also about the ISTH 2020 Congress. Together with my ISTH colleagues, we were constantly thinking whether we would need to cancel the Congress or not. We decided to proceed with the cancellation, a tough but ultimately right decision.
I was extremely sad with the cancellation because after 26 years we were finally going to bring the ISTH Congress to Milan. At the same time though, I am very excited with adapting the Congress into a virtual one, without losing any of the great scientific content we were planning to present. This is a new chapter for science and event organisation.
My advice to Mike would be to constantly evaluate the situation and not wait until it is too late in case he needs to make a similar decision. Postponing the decision will only make it harder for him and the team working on the organisation of the Congress.
Nevertheless, I hope that the whole situation will be normalised much earlier and I hope to see all my colleagues and friends in person in Manchester!
Finally, for a more light-hearted question: What do you like to do in your free time?
I love swimming! I used to swim all the time and the fact that I cannot do it because of the current circumstances is difficult. I also enjoy shopping. I like to lose myself walking in the small streets of Milan, checking the different designer shops, restaurants and cafes. Hopefully, I will be able to do both again soon.