Flora Peyvandi: Highlights on the Professional Journey of the Next ISTH President
By Maha Othman, M.D., Ph.D.
Born and happily raised by an academic family in Iran, an 18-year-old young lady decided to move to Italy in 1984 to study medicine at the University of Milan. Flora Peyvandi, M.D., Ph.D., had very specific and clear goals as a young lady: STUDY medicine, BECOME an academic, CURE patients, and CONDUCT research!
Her goals led her to specialize in hematology at the University of Milan and then solidify her training with two fellowships first at the Royal Free Hospital, UCL, London, U.K. and then at Harvard Medical School, Boston, U.S. This path speaks to the quality and determination of a special woman in science, and it contributes to her rich journey to become ISTH President in 2022. She is currently Full Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Milano, Italy and is also the Scientific Director Haemostasis and Thrombosis, IRCCS Maggiore Hospital, the Director of the Angelo Bianchi Bonomi Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center, and the Director of Postgraduate Internal Medicine School.
Peyvandi dedicated her career to excellent patient care and research in the field of bleeding disorders including hemophilia, von Willebrand’s disease, and rare disorders. She has close to 600 peer-reviewed publications, with over 23,000 citations. She chairs a relatively large number of committees and advisory boards within the international societies in the field of hemostasis including the World Federation of Hemophilia, European Association for Haemophilia and Allied Disorders, and European Haemophilia Consortium. Additionally, she invests a significant amount of time and effort to support hematologists in Afghanistan and Zambia and aids in the diagnosis and management assessment with the simplest available tools and therapies.
With a huge motivation and scientific drive, she was curious early in her career regarding the involvement of microthrombosis and coagulation impairment in almost all organs.
“The understanding of all complex factors that play a role is interesting and challenging,” Peyvandi said.
As a scientist with somewhat similar history, I was curious about her journey as a woman and a non-western person. Peyvandi explained: “To be honest, at the beginning it was not so difficult, but at every step I was getting up proportionally, this was becoming more challenging. I always thought somewhere in the sky is home, and you should create your own.”
Despite the challenges, Peyvandi believed in herself and her strengths and continued to build experiences and unique perspectives.
“Travelling and starting my life in four different countries made me more mature and helped me understand the sense of life in different cultures,” she said. “Human beings are similar with same needs. Unfortunately, the social, economic and difficulties make people to look differently.”
Clearly, as with any scientist, there were many milestones throughout her journey, but Peyvandi’s primary focus throughout her career is to care for her patients. She highlights this by emphasizing, “doing things because you mainly have a strong belief for what you do.”
During her day-to-day care of patients, she actively and accurately looks for side effects of drugs that she uses; she does the research to get better treatment; and she carefully monitors complications of novel drugs to ensure she manages these complications safely and effectively.
“I do all this to make my life, my patient’s life, and my society better, and if I lose sight of this, I will not be constructive,” Peyvandi explained.
Finally, when I asked what would be her golden advice to early career professionals, Peyvandi said, “Believe in yourself, learn the methodology on how to think and how to do research and believe in changing the world in a better place.”
I fully agree with this and would add: find the right mentor.
Peyvandi officially begins her role as ISTH President at the conclusion of the ISTH 2022 Congress. She also served as ISTH Congress Chair in 2020.