By Uqba Khan, MD
ASCO is one of the premier professional societies that is guiding oncologists throughout the world. Whether you are a medical student or an early-career oncologist, ASCO has a lot to offer. A main focus of ASCO is to promote and provide guidance to trainees and early-career oncologists. I consider myself fortunate to have been a member of ASCO since 2014, when I was still a medical resident, because I have benefited tremendously throughout my residency and fellowship by utilizing wonderful resources that ASCO has to offer. These resources are not only helpful during medical training but have long-lasting impact on career advancement for oncologists. I believe that ASCO has played a significant part in my professional growth and career development by virtue of these amazing resources. In this article, I am sharing some of the several resources that were valuable to me during my oncology training.
ASCO is committed to the development of the future oncology workforce and as such, offers free membership for physicians-in-training and oncologists-in-training. It is never too early for a trainee who is interested in the field of oncology to join. Some of the very basic membership benefits for trainee and early-career members include free access to various leading journals, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of Oncology Practice, JCO Precision Oncology, and Journal of Global Oncology. Trainee and early-career members also get the latest oncology updates from regular newsletters like Daily Cancer in the News, and from publications like ASCO Connection. ASCO also provides discounted registration rates to members for its Annual Meeting and several co-sponsored symposia.
Whether you are studying for the oncology board certifications or are looking for clinical guidelines for the treatment of patients with cancer, ASCO has the most up-to-date and comprehensive resources to support the educational needs of oncology trainees. What I found to be the most important during training is the Education Essentials for Oncology Fellows (EEOF) package. EEOF is specifically designed for oncology trainees and is truly what you need to excel during oncology training, as it provides access to the ASCO-SEP ebook as well as essential online modules and ASCO’s Meeting Library. I have personally found the Meeting Library to be very useful, because even if you don’t attend an ASCO meeting you still have access to the video presentations as well as the poster presentations, and you can review educational presentations at your own schedule and leisure.
Furthermore, ASCO also offers the Medical Oncology In-Training Exam (ITE), which is a case-based, multiple choice exam that provides a measurement of a trainee’s knowledge of medical oncology. This low-stakes exam is for self-evaluation and helps trainees as well as their oncology training programs identify areas of strength and areas for improvement.
Grants and Awards
Being the recipient of many awards from Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, I feel it is the most rewarding and fun part of being member of ASCO. Conquer Cancer offers several funding opportunities for oncology trainees and early-career oncologists. Merit Awards are conferred to trainee first authors whose research is recognized for its high quality and scientific merit at an ASCO meeting. The Young Investigator Award (YIA) provides a $50,000 grant and substantial recognition to support trainees during the transition from oncology training to a faculty appointment. Similarly, the Career Development Award (CDA) is an opportunity for early-career oncologists to obtain a grant for their research and to kickstart their academic careers.
ASCO-Sponsored Conferences and Workshops
I remember the very first time I attended the ASCO Annual Meeting was during my residency; it was an overwhelming experience but it really encouraged and motivated me to pursue a career in oncology. Every year, thousands of people from all parts of the world attend the ASCO Annual Meeting which is truly an amazing place to learn, collaborate, and advance your networking circle. ASCO also sponsors or cosponsors several other symposia in various subspecialties of oncology as well.
At the various meetings and symposia, ASCO offers specialized programming for trainees and early-career members through the Trainee & Early-Career Oncologist Member Lounge at the Annual Meeting and the Trainee Networking Lunches at some of the symposia.
ASCO also offers two specialized workshops to educate trainees and early-career oncologists on clinical trial design, drug development, and the drug regulatory process. The annual Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop, offered in partnership with AACR, is an intensive, weeklong workshop in the essentials of effective clinical trial design. This workshop provides extensive access to mentorship from world-class faculty and a unique opportunity to learn directly from some of the best in the field of oncology. The day-long FDA-ASCO Hematology and Oncology Fellows’ Day Workshop provides the unique opportunity for hematology/oncology trainees to learn more about drug development, oncology drug regulatory science, and the drug/device approval process directly from the FDA staff.
Oncology Career Center
Job hunting is never a fun time and it can be very stressful and taxing to find the best position. Thankfully, ASCO has a dedicated website which posts jobs that are advertised by leading employers. The website also provides valuable career advice of how to ace the job interview, negotiate a contract, and build a successful career. Additionally, ASCO also has an Oncology Career Fair held during its Annual Meeting, which provides ample opportunities to meet with recruiters and kickstart your job hunt.
Networking and Mentorship
ASCO provides a great platform to expand your professional connections and learn from the best in the field through ASCO meetings and symposia, the online ASCO myConnection platform, as well as virtual and in-person mentoring opportunities. ASCO-sponsored conferences provide opportunities to expand your professional connections though formal and informal networking and mentoring opportunities in the Trainee & Early-Career Oncologist Member Lounge and Women’s Networking Center. You can remotely receive mentorship and guidance through ASCO’s Virtual Mentoring Program, which pairs trainees and oncologists with a virtual mentor as part of a structured year-long program.
Another mentoring resource that I personally found to be very helpful is the ASCO’s journals reviewer mentoring program. The mentorship program provides training and hands-on experience on how to critically review a research article. This is particularly important for trainees who wants to pursue academic medicine and become a reviewer for journals.
If you really want to contribute and help guide ASCO, then you should volunteer with the organization. By volunteering in ASCO, you will expand your professional network, learn about new initiatives of the Society, and closely interact with leaders within the field. Furthermore, you will receive Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO) points every time you volunteer with ASCO. Once you gather 100 points, you will receive the distinction of FASCO. There are several committees, task forces, and working groups within the organization that are always looking for motivated and dedicated members. You can find volunteer opportunities at volunteer.asco.org.
Dr. Khan is an instructor/advanced GI oncology fellow at Weill Cornell Medical College and a member of the ASCO Trainee Council. Follow him on Twitter @UqbaKhan.