2018-2019 ASCO Health Policy Fellows Prepare for the Year Ahead

Jul 17, 2018

By A. Kate MacDougall

Two early-career oncologists will have the opportunity to shape cancer policy and gain valuable leadership experience. ASCO has selected Sheetal Kircher, MD, of Northwestern University, and Trevor Royce, MS, MD, MPH, of Massachusetts General Hospital, as its 2018-2019 Health Policy Fellows.

Now in its third year, ASCO’s Health Policy Fellowship provides in-depth experience in monitoring and shaping cancer policy and the opportunity to increase ASCO member involvement in advocacy. Over the course of 1 year, fellows attend small group teaching sessions on topics such as the Congressional authorization/appropriation process, U.S. Food and Drug Administration organization and authorities, and payment reform initiatives. Fellows collaborate on a mentored research project involving an ASCO policy initiative. They also have the opportunity to craft policy statements and participate in committee meetings and State Affiliate Council and Congressional/agency visits—all while honing their communication and leadership skills.

“The ever-changing health care landscape demands our attention and our involvement in shaping health policies that directly impact the cancer care delivery system,” said ASCO Immediate Past President Bruce E. Johnson, MD, FASCO. “Our fellowship program will help groom the next generation of oncologists to become effective leaders in the health policy arena.”

Dr. Sheetal Kircher

Dr. Sheetal KircherDr. Kircher is a medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal malignancies and assistant professor at Northwestern University. She currently serves as the medical director of the Survivorship Institute of Northwestern and is the physician lead for the university’s Oncology Care Model. Having focused on clinical research early in her career, Dr. Kircher says she first became interested in health policy when she became an attending.

“It wasn’t until I started working with patients and seeing them struggle with the cost of their cancer therapy that I became knowledgeable about the policy aspect of cancer care,” Dr. Kircher said. “Part of delivering high-quality care is understanding the changing health care environment and the impact of cost on both us as an institution and on our patients from a personal level.”

Dr. Kircher obtained her medical degree at Rush Medical College and completed her fellowship in medical oncology at Northwestern University. She also completed a research fellowship in health services research at the Ann Arbor VA and earned a master’s degree in Health and Heath Outcomes from the University of Michigan. She said that the current political climate inspired her to submit her application for ASCO’s Health Policy Fellowship this year.

“These days, the cost of cancer and its impact are increasing. Health care policies are changing so drastically. Physicians are dealing with burnout and other pressures. And a lot of Americans and people in health care feel that their voices aren’t being heard,” Dr. Kircher said. “The combination of all these things often makes us as physicians feel like we don’t have control over how we’re delivering care for patients.”

As a Health Policy Fellow, Dr. Kircher is most looking forward to increasing her involvement in ASCO leadership opportunities, getting other physicians and ASCO members involved in health care advocacy, and eventually using her fellowship experience to improve health care policy in her community.

“At this point in my career, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the process of policymaking at the local/institutional level, and I’m looking forward to learning what that process looks like on a larger scale and being equipped to make even more impact,” Dr. Kircher said.

Dr. Trevor Royce

Dr. Trevor RoyceDr. Royce is chief resident of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program. He is a member and former executive committee vice-chair of the Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology, as well as an active member of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO). His interest in health policy was stoked by work on policy initiatives offered through ASTRO. Dr. Royce expanded his health policy experience during his residency, conducting research on the oncology job market and the workforce landscape for oncologists.

“This is a moment in our nation where health policy is at the front of many high-level policy discussions,” he said. “As I learn from this fellowship, I hope to impact and work on policy issues not only on the national level but also on the state and local levels.”

Dr. Royce attended medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed an internship in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. After beginning his residency at Harvard, Dr. Royce’s growing health policy interest propelled him even further in his academic pursuits.

“A growing interest in policy motivated me to take a year at the Harvard School of Public Health, where I got an MPH as a resident,” he said. “I worked on decision analysis, cost effectiveness modeling, and economic evaluations, and I learned how high-level policy decisions can impact day-to-day patient care. That experience really solidified my interest in health policy.”

Through his ASCO fellowship, Dr. Royce is looking forward to further expanding his policy knowledge and skill set, making a meaningful contribution in health care policy, and learning from fellow advocates.

“I hope to meet a lot of people with like-minded interests and see how we can all work together to make patient care better,” Dr. Royce said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about—improving the health of our patients.”

Dr. Royce will join the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an assistant professor this fall.

Apply for the 2019-2020 Program

Beginning in 2019, the Health Policy Fellowship will become a part of ASCO’s Leadership Development Program under a new name: the Health Policy Leadership Development Program. The program will continue to focus on equipping participants with the necessary skills to monitor and shape the regulatory and legislative policies that directly affect patients with cancer and the oncology practice environment, but will include an expanded focus on leadership development. The program will be open to all ASCO members who have completed their final subspecialty training between 2009 and 2014. Applications are currently being accepted; the deadline to apply is September 25, 2018. Learn more and submit your application.

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