The personal relationship drives the cooperation

We proudly present Professor Mark Yazer from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, who has been an adjunct professor at the Research unit of Clinical Immunology, OUH/SDU, for one year. Answering the question ‘why’, he emphasized that his motivations include the personal relationships, mutual trust and reciprocal interest in developing research projects at OUH/SDU. Mark Yazer also has a deep admiration for Denmark and the Danish handball team which makes the cooperation even better.


The driving force in your research and career
“I became interested in blood transfusion because I saw it as an opportunity to do meaningful clinical research. Right now is probably the best time to be in this field, because now we are really starting to study some of the practices that we have been doing for many years without evidence, and grant money is available to do large multicenter studies – to get at the essence of proper practice – and this is a possibility we have not had for many years. And luckily as I got more and more involved, the research evolved due to new diseases and adverse recipient events that have been discovered during the years, and I have been able to contribute a bit to that the expanding knowledge base in these areas. Earlier, a lot of transfusion was done without knowing why we did it; “because that’s the way it had always been done” is of course not always the best practice. And there I recognized that the transfusion area needed to be based on evidence to try and optimize the way we provide blood products to our patients. Now we are a better place to appreciate both what we know and also what we do not know!”

About the transfusion research field
“Two components are important: One is how we store the products, from whom we collect them and the process that ensures that the right product goes to the right patient. The other part of the story is about how often we should use the product. How much is to be given, and when during the patient’s treatment should it be administered. All of these things are topics that we as transfusion medicine specialists should be involved with and should be studying in order to understand the optimum practice.”

How and when did you establish the cooperation with SDU/OUH?
“The first time I met ‘the Danes’ from Odense was a few years ago in Barcelona, where I gave a presentation. I looked at the list of people and noticed a few people from Denmark were attending the meeting. And so being a big fan of handball, I really wanted to meet Danes. And my way of finding them was maybe a little curious; during a short break, I put on some music – the theme from the Danish film “Pusher” – and I looked up to see who among the audience looked surprised. And there I recognized chief physician Ulrik Sprogøe – that music he really hadn’t expected to hear at a talk in Barcelona. So we had a good chat – also about handball – and from there we developed a personal and professional relationship. I hope to be able to run as fast as he can one day!

In 2014 – the year of the European Handball Championship – I was invited by Ulrik to give a presentation on evidence based red cell transfusion guidelines at the Department of Clinical Immunology! I really enjoyed both – and regarding the meeting I can only say that I found the audience to be engaged and perceptive – which really is not always the case. Therefore I got a very good impression about the department and the people. When I was invited to be an adjunct professor in December 2015, I was honored and pleased and of course I took the opportunity.

A brief interlude in the story is that we have a family friend who is Danish. I first met him when I was young boy and I thought that he was really exotic, he had this wonderful accent, one of the first foreign accents that I had ever heard, and I thought about Denmark as a place to visit in the future. So through this friendship I have felt at strong connection to your country – and of course that connection was strengthened by my choices of sports that go along great with the Scandinavian tradition. I must also say that Fyn has an excellent selection of microbreweries, which I did not expect as Denmark is not really known for beer other than Carlsberg.”

The steps forward in the research in Odense – since the beginning of the cooperation
“During the last year we have made six abstracts. Two papers were accepted and one is going to be submitted soon. Best of all is that we have in common a lot of fresh ideas for new research projects to be done. And I think that my visits also act as a bit of a ‘deadline-factor’ to getting our projects finished; my visits twice a year strengthen their attention to the research plans in order to get the most out of our cooperation.

How do you support the Odense-research?
“It is important to follow the literature closely to be able to close some of the holes in the literature. To examine where we need to make more work is an important part of my role here and it gives me the opportunity of thinking of new ideas in mentoring and producing papers. I bring to Odense the sense of how we can work together to solve some of the problems in transfusion medicine and how we can use our resources together in order to establish the best practice for our patients.”

Which experience do you bring back home from here?
“We are just about to submit a paper where we have looked at a certain practice that’s done here in Odense. When a person donates blood, it is important that we know their type of blood. Because of the advanced electronic database in use here, we can use this blood type should the donor one day need to receive a transfusion. We showed that on several occasions, errors in establishing the recipient’s blood group were caught, because they had donated blood in the past. This database is an excellent safety innovation, which really helps to ensure the recipient’s safety. This model is not common in the USA, and this is something I have learned here.

I am inspired by the flat organization and the informal atmosphere here, where my colleagues address each other by first name, regardless of their hospital or university rank. I am sure that these close working relationships based on mutual trust leads to a certain job satisfaction and happiness. Their professional and personal interaction is an excellent model for others to follow – and share.”


  • Mark Harris Yazer, 41 years old, born and raised in Canada
  • Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  • Medical training in in Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton as a medical specialist in hematological pathology
  • Proud supporter of SG Flensburg-Handewitt handball club, where many fine Danish players have had tremendous success
  • Primary colleagues in Odense: Professor Torben Barington and chief physician Ulrik Sprogøe.