Like almost every other organization, business, and institution, ASCO was tested over the last year in unprecedented ways. Looking back, I am proud to report that we responded with agility, collaboration, and creativity. Years of hard work, planning, modeling, and coordination paid off as we overcame extraordinary challenges. Looking ahead, I believe that we are emerging from this past year strengthened and positioned to make an even greater impact in the future.
Below I want to provide selected highlights of our accomplishments to stimulate our collective thinking about where we want our professional society to go next. Some were long-planned, strategic goals, while many other accomplishments were reactive to the unexpected events the year brought us. Notably, ASCO successfully achieved nearly every feasible goal we had planned (pre-pandemic) for 2020 while also meeting the demands of an extraordinary year.
With gratitude to our volunteer leaders, members, Conquer Cancer donors, and staff, here is a partial and high-level review of the unplanned challenges we faced and addressed together and the long-term strategic initiatives we accomplished despite added obstacles.
- We rapidly assembled and deployed novel resources for the oncology community as it began to address COVID-19. This included clinical and ethical guidance, a series of global webinars for the community to share learning and support one another, and a number of enduring and evolving digital resources.
- Launched the ASCO registry to study the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care, and we began an ambitious (and successful) fundraising effort to support all of our unplanned COVID-19 activities.
- Deployed a program for members to obtain at-cost PPE (Project N95).
- Published our Road to Recovery report in JCO, with our evaluation of the adaptations in care delivery, research operations, and regulatory oversight made in response to the pandemic, as well as recommendations for moving forward.
- Committed to a thorough reimagining of ASCO’s quality portfolio, and you will see components later in 2021 focused on efficient support for quality care.
- Hosted our entire peer-reviewed scientific Annual Meeting virtually and on a brand-new technology platform. We delivered the latest groundbreaking science in oncology and timely information on clinical application and treatment to 42,750 virtual attendees, representing 138 countries. The robust program featured 109 live and on-demand sessions, with more than 2,300 recorded presentations, and 5,290 abstracts. Our aim was to deliver an annual meeting that would be, from the vantage point of the future, indistinguishable in content and quality from those before and after, and we achieved this goal.
- Renewed our commitment to ASCO’s core values and mission, including equity. We joined other medical professional societies in calling for change, then accelerated our own journey toward equity, diversity, and inclusion both within our profession and across all of clinical care and research. We upgraded ASCO’s mission statement to provide an even stronger external indicator of this commitment.
- Launched the long-awaited ASCO Association Political Action Committee supporting our commitment to increased non-partisan political impact. The Association quickly began to accumulate PAC donors, establish relationships with congressional leaders who can help us in the years ahead, and has already felt the difference in terms of meaningful interchange with policymakers.
- Navigated an unprecedented politicization of science and medical practice, including the public disparagement of osteopathic physicians, partisan disparagement of the FDA drug approval process, and false claims that physicians were overstating the impact of COVID-19 for their own financial profit. In this climate, ASCO has been compelled to re-examine and reaffirm our disciplined approach to public comment as an organization.
Our Staff & Work
- Successfully and effectively converted and conducted all activities virtually for most of the year. Our employee remote work policy and recently accelerated technology upgrades made this somewhat easier for us than it was for many other organizations, but it was a radical change in our day-to-day operations as it was for so many others around the world.
- Selected long-time active ASCO volunteer and distinguished leader in the oncology field Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO, to join our executive team as ASCO’s second chief medical officer (CMO) following Dr. Richard L. Schilsky’s retirement announcement. Dr. Gralow is well-poised to take on the profound legacy, responsibility, and opportunities of the CMO role when she joins us officially in mid-February.
- Recruited the next CEO of CancerLinQ, LLC, Sean Khozin, MD, MPH, a visionary informatics expert and medical oncologist who will build on the growing strength and size of this enterprise to deliver more value and insights to our community.
I know that these highlights only represent a small fraction of the hard work and remarkable progress your professional society made over the past year. The focus and agility that enabled us to accomplish our goals and simultaneously meet the demands of an extraordinary year gives me confidence that our Society is transformed and better poised than ever before to deliver growing value to our members and the world for years to come.
As we begin 2021, we are sharply focused on what we are going to do next. Where can and should ASCO’s impact be greatest as we recover from the pandemic and strive to conquer cancer? What have we learned that will enable us to do more and do it better in pursuit of our mission? I remain confident in our collective ability to answer these questions and to serve our communities in the days ahead. I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as we make our plans. Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we continue the journey, I hope you share my optimism for the future and contribute your thoughts and your time. Today and every day, thank you for your unwavering dedication to our Society.