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Meet Nancy R. Daly, MS, MPH

Mar 08, 2021

Chief executive officer of Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation; previously a clinical nurse at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, director of operations in the Radiation Oncology Department at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center University, and director of the Chemical-Modifier Program at the Joint Center for Radiotherapy at Harvard Medical School; transitioned to the professional society realm working first with American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO). 

What led you to oncology?

ND: When I was in nursing school, I was fortunate to have a nursing instructor, Glenda Gelman, who inspired me to specialize in oncology nursing. She was a great mentor who encouraged me to seek out additional opportunities to learn more about the oncology nursing field.

What career could you see yourself in if you hadn’t gone into oncology nursing?

ND: I would love to be a fourth-grade teacher. My favorite teacher was Mr. Mench, my fourth-grade instructor. He was an exceptionally kind human being. For a while, my dream was to return to my hometown and teach fourth grade at my alma mater elementary school.

What’s the last book you read? What did you think of it?

ND: I’m halfway through Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. It’s a book about the history of racism in the United States. It’s sobering and disturbing. When I reflect on growing up in my hometown, I realize I was sheltered from learning about racism and the history of how events have unfolded throughout U.S. history. One reason I began reading this book is because I feel it is important and relevant to the health equity work that we’re already doing at ASCO. More broadly, I think if we’re serious about moving the needle toward antiracism, knowing the history is important as it can inform how we change the future.

What app or website do you check most often?

ND: Probably my email, followed by Facebook, and then Instagram! I also use YouTube frequently for how-to tutorials.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

ND: I just rediscovered my passion for knitting. It’s like a little task you can do while imagining the final product. When you set out to craft a new piece, you can generally have a finished product quickly. In the recreational sports category, I really love sailing, usually in Long Island Sound. I’m also a walker—I probably walk about 10,000 to 15,000 steps per day. I’ve always been a walker, it’s a form of exercise I’ve kept consistent. Finally, what I value the most is my family and spending time with them. I am so fortunate to have lots of nieces and nephews and they have young children, which makes for a lot of fun!

What is your personal motto?

ND: “The power of partnerships.” This can apply to many things. I think we’re so much more powerful when we work together.

What do you think oncology will look like 10 years from today?

ND: I think we’ll continue seeing a rise in personalized medicine, likely more than ever. I’d say this innovation has transformed the most in recent years. We’re beginning to truly understand what’s going on at the micro level and these discoveries are informing the course of care for patients with cancer.

What would you say to a young person who is thinking about entering the field of oncology?

ND: Go for it. You’re going to meet the smartest, kindest, most dedicated people on the planet. A special kind of person goes into oncology. There’s a unique aspect of oncology that draws all different kinds of people to the field. You can see this at the ASCO Annual Meeting, where people come together to network and uplift each other. If you really want to make a difference and feel like you’re a part of something, I highly recommend oncology.

Any closing thoughts on this issue’s exploration of the role Conquer Cancer support plays in improving health equity and workforce diversity?

ND: ASCO, as an organization, is committed to its members. I’m proud to say I work here. The fact that in 1964, a Black woman cofounded the organization with six white men is amazing—I’m proud to be part of this community. And I’m humbled to help scale what ASCO has been doing to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in oncology since its inception. This is not new for us. We’ve been dedicated to driving health equity since 1964. I’m excited that we’re expanding this work for our members and internally for staff. ASCO has really been a leader in this space and will continue to be.

Follow Ms. Daly on Twitter @nancyriese_daly.

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