An Opportunity to Rebuild Better Than Before

An Opportunity to Rebuild Better Than Before

Linda R. Duska, MD, MPH

Mar 09, 2021

“When the pandemic is over, patients deserve more than a return to the way things were before COVID-19.”

2020-2021 ASCO president Dr. Lori J. Pierce makes the above statement as she discusses ASCO’s report on and recommendations for post-pandemic recovery. She continues, “We have an opportunity to provide better care to everyone with cancer drawing from the insights we’ve gained during the pandemic. Cancer care is marked by the same inequities as our society at large. To emerge from the pandemic stronger, we have to make sure every patient can benefit from advances in cancer research and care.”

If there is the thinnest of silver linings to be found in the complete upheaval of the past year, it is the opportunity we now have to tear up the playbook, to set aside conventional wisdom, and to rebuild our systems better than they were before.

The March 2021 issue of ASCO Connection focuses on the work of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, and specifically on how its Grants & Awards program is investing in a more diverse, more equal, and more inclusive future by supporting underrepresented researchers and by funding research for underrepresented patient populations. Our research enterprise needs to look more like the world around us, and its discoveries need to serve every person affected by cancer. Every person—irrespective of age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and any other factor that may impede them from receiving the high-quality, evidence-based care they deserve.

Conquer Cancer, which has disbursed over $135 million in funding to over 2,200 investigators since the first Young Investigator Award was granted in 1984, is making a measurable and meaningful impact in this space. At the heart of these impressive numbers are the people who have been able to lay the foundations of their careers in oncology thanks to that funding, and the people who have selflessly participated in their clinical trials with the hope that their experience will help future patients. Importantly, these awards feed the little spark of passion and early interest in oncology in young people who may not see themselves represented in our field, but who absolutely belong here.

As we actively work to welcome and support diversity and representation in the next generation of the oncology workforce, we have an opportunity to expand our preconceived definitions of what it means to be successful in the field of oncology. Dr. Ramy Sedhom discusses how the pandemic has refocused his professional journey on meaning, not milestones, and his intention to measure his success based on how his work aligns with his personal values. His essay is a necessary reminder to all of us to devote our energy and time—our most valuable and finite resources—to the things that really matter, however we define them.

What we call success may look different today than it did before—and I think that can only be a good thing.

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