Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO, ASCO’s first chief medical officer (CMO) and a senior and then executive vice president for the past 8 years, will be retiring from ASCO on February 28, 2021. As is true in everything Rich does, his careful planning, foresight, and thoughtfulness means that ASCO will have his continued expertise and guidance over the next 9 months as we recruit the best possible candidate to serve as our second CMO.
Rich not only envisioned and established the (then) new role of CMO at ASCO, he also established an extraordinarily high standard for anyone who follows. Given his career, this is no surprise, but it is nonetheless impressive. Rich came to ASCO as CMO in March 2013, after nearly 30 years at the University of Chicago Medicine including 15 in which he simultaneously led the CALGB. As he defined the role of ASCO CMO he brought his career-long experience as a dedicated volunteer (including a term as president in 2008-2009, during which he selected the extraordinarily prescient theme “Personalizing Cancer Care”), his leadership in oncology drug development, his dedication to scientific rigor and reliance on evidence, and his background in government relations and advocacy.
That ideal blend of experience enabled him to shape and then evolve the CMO role as that of a key spokesperson and policy advisor, as well as fundraiser for Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation. As a member of ASCO’s Executive Leadership Team, he has been instrumental in seeing both the forest and the trees: guiding the development and implementation of ASCO’s 5-year Strategic Plan while also being deeply engaged in the day-to-day management of the essential work of our Society.
In the past 6 months, Rich has led ASCO’s efforts to provide much-needed, high-quality clinical guidance to members desperate to provide excellent care to patients with cancer during COVID-19. Our rapid success here was only possible because of the foundation he helped put in place across ASCO.
In recent years, Rich led the transformation of ASCO from an organization that not only responsibly disseminates the latest scientific discoveries (through our world-class meetings and highly regarded journals) into one that also actively contributes new knowledge to the field:
- He launched ASCO’s first-ever prospective clinical trial, the Targeted Agent and Profiling Utilization Registry (TAPUR) Study, to describe the efficacy of FDA-approved targeted therapies for the treatment of patients with advanced cancers that have a potentially actionable genomic variant. Since patient enrollment began in March 2016, TAPUR is already generating evidence, presentations, and papers that are expanding our understanding of precision medicine and, ultimately, guiding optimal care for specific patient populations.
- He established the Center for Research & Analytics (CENTRA), which in a few short years has catalogued and annotated ASCO’s (extensive) data assets, developed a Board-approved Policy on Research Scope, set up a process to review and fulfill requests for ASCO data, built a Division of Biostatistics and Research Data Governance, and initiated ASCO’s Research Survey Pool to support surveys of ASCO members for research purposes.
- He has been a forward-thinking champion of CancerLinQ and has helped define a real-world evidence research strategy in cancer care, recognizing early on that big data can enable us to learn from every patient’s experience—not just from the 3% who are able to participate in clinical trials.
- Most recently, he has led the creation of the ASCO Survey on COVID-19 and Oncology Registry (ASCO Registry), which will help the cancer community learn more about the patterns of symptoms and severity of COVID-19 among patients with cancer, as well as how COVID-19 is impacting the delivery of cancer care and patient outcomes.
This spirit of clinically relevant discovery and accessible, understandable knowledge dissemination is the profound legacy, responsibility, and obligation that Rich will leave at ASCO. As a consequence, even as we celebrate his retirement, we will honor him by continuing this work at the level of rigor and quality he established.
As sad as we will be to see him depart, please join me in congratulating Rich as he prepares for the next chapter of a life and career that has truly helped our members conquer cancer.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (“ASCO”) has exclusively retained Bridge Partners to conduct a search for a Chief Medical Officer, to be located in its Alexandria, VA headquarters. Interested candidates please submit your CV and cover letter to: Debbie Tang and Toya Lawson by August 21, 2020. ASCO is an equal opportunity employer.