Award announcement accompanies Society's lead support of today's "Rally for Medical Research"WASHINGTON, April 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional organization dedicated to the causes and treatment of blood disorders, today announced the first recipients of the ASH Bridge Grants, a new award program designed to help hematologists continue their critical blood disease research amid severe funding reductions for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The announcement coincides with the Society's participation as a Platinum Supporter in the " Rally for Medical Research," held today in Washington, which will unite millions of Americans across the country to call on our nation's policymakers to make medical research a national priority. "We know that continued, devastating cuts to NIH funding pose a real threat to the future of medicine and will likely cause many talented investigators to abandon biomedical research as a career path," said ASH President Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle. To help address this crisis, ASH committed $9 million in July 2012 to create the grant program intended to provide its member researchers with critical interim support to sustain their hematology research during a time of sustained NIH budget cuts, including a $1.6 billion cut this year plus additional cuts to come over the next several years as a result of sequestration. "While the establishment of this program represents an unprecedented financial commitment on the part of ASH, we recognize that it provides nowhere near what is needed to replace the NIH funding that has been cut for hematology research," said Dr. Abkowitz. "What we really need is for Congress to understand that medical research is a national priority, which is why it was so important for ASH to support today's rally at the highest level."