We each have our methods of stress relief. I use travel. The planning of flights along with finding interesting little places and ways to connect with the local population may be torture to some, but not for me. I highly value learning more about the everyday ways of life where I travel.
Over the past couple of years, I have started using ASCO to help with that. When I figure out where I will be, I search the ASCO Membership Directory for local oncologists and offer to meet with them and buy them a meal. It can be, admittedly, a hit-or-miss proposition. Most times, however, I have ended up with a truly enjoyable experience.
Last fall, I contacted Dr. Yuko Kitagawa in Tokyo. It was a simple cold call email just saying I was coming to visit Tokyo and could I buy him dinner. Within short order, a dinner was arranged with him, another surgeon, a GI oncologist, and a fellow at Keio University Hospital.
Through those three to four hours we discussed differences in training and everyday practice, as well as the relative merits of certain U.S. television shows. The exposure to the life of a Japanese oncologist was eye-opening. From recognizing that patients coming from more rural areas might not want to be told that they have cancer to more urban, sophisticated patients coming from the city itself, they have challenges that I had never had to consider. I hope to reciprocate the experience for them at the Annual Meeting this year.
While it may seem like traveling is meant to get away from work, I would encourage all of you to consider this idea. ASCO is a global organization with thousands of members in most countries (including the Caribbean) who share your interests. Many of them are very excited to share their lives and work experiences with you. All it would take is a simple email to potentially add an entirely new aspect to the trip.