Learning from Others
Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP
28 Jun 2012 9:41 AM
I have had the good fortune to travel to many places in the world in the last few years. It is such an important aspect of my work. It is incredibly eye-opening to experience different cultures and ways of life. I learn something from every trip I take.
This past week I went to Seoul, Korea, and had never been there before. They have a very vibrant economy right now. I was impressed with the dedication and tenacity of the people there. There is a 100% literacy rate—what an extraordinary achievement. To me this showed that literacy was valued and highly supported by the population.
Their can-do attitude was also amazing. One person told me that in the time of economic strife in the 1990s, everyone in the country pulled together to sell jewelry or whatever they had to contribute to decreasing the national debt. They were able to come out of the difficult economic times very quickly.
I also gave a talk at Samsung Medical Center. One of the physicians who contributed very heavily to accrual to a global international trial that I was talking about couldn’t come to the talk because he had 75 patients to see that day. Yes that is correct and not a typo, 75. Hopefully that will change for the physicians there so they can spend more time with their patients. But the point is, even with such a very heavy patient load, he was committed to making progress in metastatic breast cancer and felt it was very important to have his patients participate in clinical trials. I was so impressed with the human spirit of the Korean people.
Also, another thing I learned is that I am out of touch technologically (not exactly a news flash for those of you who know me—I try, but definitely am behind!). My husband and I were looking everywhere for postcards to send because we like to do this when we go to new places. The guide was incredulous and said, “You still do that?” I think the current communication is to send an email picture. But it did make me think that not only in my life but as ASCO president that we need to be very cognizant about the way communication occurs today. This is especially important for the younger generation who learns differently than I do. I can learn a lot from them.