Aaron Cheng Selected as 2017 CAF-ApoPharma Distinguished Scholar Award Recipient

March 13, 2018 – The Cooley’s Anemia Foundation is proud to announce Aaron Cheng as the 2017 CAF-ApoPharma Distinguished Scholar Award recipient. This scholarship is in the amount of $20,000 and is presented to individuals in the United States with a clinically significant form of thalassemia who are pursuing postgraduate doctoral level studies in medicine or science. This award is made possible through a grant from pharmaceutical manufacturer ApoPharma to encourage and support the pursuit of higher education by members of the thalassemia patient community.

“ApoPharma proudly supports Aaron Cheng, who, as a thalassemia patient, in pursuit of an advanced degrees in the Biomedical Sciences, is making a difference,” says Dr. Michael Spino, President of ApoPharma, Inc. “Having seen Aaron’s work presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in 2016 demonstrates that he is a worthy recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award. His further quest for training in the hematology patient community is notable. All of us at ApoPharma extend our best wishes and join in congratulating Aaron on this achievement.”

Aaron received his undergraduate degree in Chemical and Physical Biology from Harvard College, and is currently a fourth year student at Harvard Medical School. Aaron’s goal is to learn how to become a productive physician-scientist. In particular, he hopes to explore computational research because new advances in genetics and high throughput cell biology methods have made it imperative to gain a deep understanding of quantitative methods. Last year, he worked on 5 different patients with blood disorders that were not explained by common genetic mutations. To better understand the potential causes of their diseases, he learned how to use powerful computational tools to process many thousands of genetic variants that are present in the patients and their families, and applied genetic filters in order to identify several mutations that may explain their disease.

“Aaron is more than a promising young medical researcher; he is a leader in the thalassemia community with the type of proactive and positive thinking that has inspired so many to reach higher,” remarks Anthony Viola, President of the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation. “We are so proud to award him for the second time with the CAF-ApoPharma Distinguished Scholar Award. CAF thanks ApoPharma for their continued support of thalassemia patients, as well as the Scholarship Committee for their work reviewing the submissions.”

Aaron’s role as a caretaker of patients is also extremely important to him. Over the past year he has rotated through his clinical clerkships at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he has been involved in the inpatient care of patients among several specialties. He hopes to supplement his clinical experiences in the years to come by exploring fields such as cardiology and critical care medicine to best serve patients in the future.

“I am honored to be chosen as the CAF ApoPharma scholar this year,” says Aaron. “To me, this award serves as a reminder that although thalassemia is a challenge to deal with, it doesn’t need to prevent patients from achieving their dreams. I appreciate the efforts that ApoPharma and CAF have dedicated toward encouraging higher education in patients with thalassemia, and I believe that this is a worthwhile and important investment. I will be putting the reward toward an extra year of hematology-related research at Boston Children’s Hospital, so I may better develop my career as a physician and scientist.”

CAF congratulates Aaron on his phenomenal achievements and we wish him much success as he completes medical school and continues his research.

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