By ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO, and ASCO Chair of the Board Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO
As you know, elections are underway for leadership positions in ASCO. The voting window is now open and will close on Tuesday, December 8,, at 9:15 AM Eastern Standard Time, USA. At the same time as the elections, there will be multiple proposed ASCO Bylaw amendments on the ballot. These amendments have been fully discussed by the ASCO Board over the course of the past few years and the products of these discussions are highlighted below. These proposals are now being put forward for your consideration and vote. Please allow us to provide some context to the proposed changes.
Enhanced Benefits for All Members With Doctoral-Level Degrees
Currently, “Full Members” are generally defined as physicians plus a limited number of doctoral-level providers who devote a majority of their professional activity to oncology research, teaching, and patient care. Only the Full Members, Emeritus Members who were formerly Full Members, and Honorary Members, who together account for approximately 57% of the total membership, can vote in ASCO elections. Only Full Members can serve on the ASCO Board of Directors, the ASCO Nominating Committee, or as ASCO elected officers. Under the existing Bylaws, all ASCO Board members must be physicians.
The proposed amendments will allow all doctoral-level members, physicians and non-physicians, to vote and serve on the ASCO Board of Directors and Nominating Committee. Revising the definition in this way for all doctoral-level members would extend voting rights to approximately 83% of the total ASCO membership. Thus, as of 2021, any doctoral-level member (physicians or non-physicians) could be elected to serve on the ASCO Board of Directors in the five undesignated seats or on the Nominating Committee. The other 13 elected seats on the Board could only be filled by physicians. This proposal is being put forward to allow all doctoral-level members who are committed to the collective mission of ASCO to have a significant voice in the Society.
Uncontested Presidential Elections
The proposed bylaws amendments would give the elected Nominating Committee more flexibility to nominate a President-Elect candidate who brings the experience of a different subspecialty, geographic area, practice setting, or other attribute. This is achieved by removing the need to create a slate of two balanced candidates (i.e., two individuals from similar specialties, practice settings, or geographic areas), in favor of naming one ideal candidate on the ballot.
Currently, the ASCO Nominating Committee reviews a small pool of eligible candidates, i.e., those who have previously served on the ASCO Board of Directors, and selects a roster of candidates, and ultimately presents two final candidates on the ballot to the Society. Members who are eligible then vote for one of the two candidates for the position of ASCO President-Elect. However, achieving diversity—in all forms—therefore requires the Nominating Committee to identify at least two candidates with specific similar skills, training, or other criteria to ensure fairness on the slate, and this is not always possible. This constrains achievement of the diversity the organization seeks.
The proposed Bylaws change will still require the Nominating Committee to review those who are eligible and ultimately present two final candidates for consideration. The change will be that the two candidates, previously voted by the membership to serve on the Board, will be presented to the current ASCO Board who, in turn, will select the candidate felt to have the portfolio most consistent with the needs of the Society at that time. The candidate put forward by the Board will then run unopposed on the ballot for ASCO President-Elect. Voting members can vote for the candidate, write in an alternate candidate, or abstain from voting. As before, any candidate for President-Elect must have previously served on the ASCO Board of Directors (although current Board members would be ineligible), meaning the individual will already have been elected once by the voting-eligible members to an ASCO leadership position.
Although it may first appear that this proposed change reduces choices, in many ways the opposite is true. Nominating one candidate instead of two will free the Nominating Committee from the need to select two candidates from similar professional backgrounds for the ballot. It will not be necessary to select two community oncologists for the ballot, say, or two pediatric oncologists.
To recap, with the full pool of great candidates to choose from, this change will enable the Nominating Committee and the Board to much better support diversity in the role of President-Elect from year to year, with the expectation that over the long term, the ASCO Presidency will reflect the diversity of the membership in every way: specialty, professional setting, demographics, and other characteristics.
Continuity in the Role of the ASCO Treasurer
At present, the ASCO Treasurer is voted by the membership to serve as Treasurer for 4 years, assuming the role after the previous Treasurer’s term ends. There is no overlap to allow for mentoring by the existing Treasurer or the sharing of knowledge. Similarly, there is no opportunity to understand the strategic goals of ASCO to which the finances must be aligned.
Under the proposed change, beginning in 2021, the ASCO Board of Directors will elect one of the current Board members to serve as Treasurer-Elect. This individual, who must be one of the Board members that was elected by the ASCO membership (an “Elected Director”), will then overlap with the existing Treasurer for a year and assume the role of Treasurer in 2022. Going forward, each year the Board would elect a Board member to be Treasurer-Elect for a year and serve as Treasurer the following year.
So yes, many changes have been proposed and now it is time for you to cast your vote! Let your voice be heard!
Thank you for taking the time to read through the proposed amendments and for your commitment to ASCO. Your vote will truly help to shape our Society for many years to come.
Find more information about candidates and proposed amendments on ASCO.org. Contact ASCO election staff via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 571-483-1316 with questions.