By William D. Tap, MD
In 2018, the ASCO Board approved the name change of the Health Disparities Committee to the Health Equity Committee. This change builds on our knowledge of cancer health disparities and reflects the need to move beyond reporting the differences in incidence, prevalence, mortality, and disease burden, to ultimately achieving health care equity for all through improved access to and quality of care. The purpose of the Health Equity Committee is to “lead ASCO’s health equity initiatives, guiding the Society on a long-term strategy to effectively address health care disparities and improve health care equity across the cancer care continuum, from prevention to end-of-life care.” The committee’s focus is to address the needs of medically underserved populations including racial and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, older adults, and rural populations. I had the privilege to serve as the inaugural chair to the Health Equity Committee for 2018-2019. As I reflect on my past year as chair, I see the many accomplishments and strides we’ve made in a short period of time.
In support of this new focus and direction, ASCO convened current and past leaders of the Health Disparities Committee at a Cancer Disparities and Health Equity Summit in January 2019. During the summit, I was surrounded by my colleagues, all renowned experts and leaders in the field, and listened to them respond to thought-provoking questions, giving insight on where the field was moving and what ASCO’s focus should be in the future. This summit was the starting point for informing the development of an update to the 2009 ASCO Statement on Disparities in Cancer Care. Since the summit, the Health Equity Committee has been busy devising a strategy for ASCO to improve health equity across the cancer care continuum and working on the development of an ASCO statement on health equity, to be published later this year. The committee has also been busy growing connections and establishing liaisons with other ASCO committees to integrate health equity into other projects, initiatives, and programs.
I am excited about the 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting program. With the support and direction from chair Dr. Colin D. Weekes and 2018-2019 ASCO president Dr. Monica M. Bertagnolli, the Annual Meeting Education Committee has done a wonderful job integrating a focus on disparities and health equity into the Annual Meeting program across 14 different primary tracks. There’s a Clinical Science Symposium on “Evidence, Care, Impact: Making Inroads Against Cancer Disparities” and 23 other sessions in the Disparities/Health Equity complementary track. There are unique formats this year as well. There’s an interactive case-based session on “Financial Assistance for Participation in Clinical Trials: What Works Best for Patients?”, which is a nice follow-up to the related 2018 ASCO statement, and a Friday afternoon workshop on “Enhancing Cultural Literacy In Oncology: Strategies For Delivery of High-Quality Cancer Care.” There’s also a moderated discussion on “Establishing a Mutually Respectful Environment in the Workplace,” in which I’m one of five panelists who will be sharing vignettes about microaggressions experienced and witnessed in the workplace.
As you arrange your Annual Meeting schedule, I urge you to explore the many offerings in the Disparities/Health Equity track and attend one or more of the sessions. Join the conversation on social media and search or use hashtags #ASCOHealthEquity and #ASCO19.
Dr. Tap is the chief of the Sarcoma Medical Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York. He has extensive experience in translational medicine and is currently in charge of the clinical, basic science, and translational aspects of the Sarcoma Medical Oncology Program at MSKCC. He has a tremendous interest in global health care initiatives, specifically in affecting health disparities in underserved areas of the world. Dr. Tap is 2018-2019 chair of the ASCO Health Equity Committee and a member of the Annual Meeting Education Committee, TAPUR Steering Group, and the Broadening Eligibility Criteria Task Force. Follow him on Twitter @WTapMD.