Oct 03, 2023
By Miranda DeBruyn, ASCO Marketing
A few hours before the 2023 ASCO Voices session, the presenters gathered in McCormick Place’s Arie Crown Theater for a chance to see and get a feel for the stage for the first time. The anticipation pumped through them as they looked out at the big theater where their peers would soon fill the seats. Standing where others stood before to share their stories of humanity in medicine humbled them all, but now it was their chance. The support of each other and the support of the community that would soon listen to them was palpable, and they were ready. As seats began to fill, and the lights started to dim it was time. “Welcome to ASCO Voices...”
Showcasing a Variety of Personal Narratives
Rajasree Pia Chowdry, MD, of LSU Health Sciences Center, has attended ASCO Voices since it first began in 2018. She always found it to be a humbling experience to hear others’ stories of triumph, tragedy, and resilience.
When Dr. Chowdry decided to submit her story for the 2023 ASCO Voices session, she felt she had a unique perspective and experience that she wanted to share with her colleagues about disparities in clinical trials. “There was a rawness and realness to my story that I think is often overlooked when we talk about the excitement of new clinical discoveries. We forget that unless we can ensure equitable access to all, the impact will not be as meaningful,” she said.
The theme of the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting, “Partnering With Patients,” really stood out to Shaalan Beg, MD, MBA, of Science 37 and UT Southwestern Medical Center. “I felt that this was the year to share the story of my patient who overcame geographic and access barriers to enroll in a trial,” he said. “Her success in the study made me think about many other people who may have not been fortunate enough to have resources to enroll in a trial.”
Dr. Beg first heard about ASCO Voices when the ASCO Annual Meeting was offered online due to COVID-19. His colleague, Aparna Raj Parikh, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, presented a story of her friend’s journey with cancer, an “Ode to Rachel.”
“It was so powerful hearing her story. When the Annual Meeting ended, the ASCO Voices session was what stayed with me the most,” Dr. Beg said.
Anthony D’Amico, MD, PhD, of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, realized he, too, had a story to share that would resonate with others. “I was always moved greatly by the way the ASCO Voices presenters chose to share their love through vulnerable moments in their lives through their stories,” he said.
His story, “Everything Happens for a Reason,” shared that when difficulty strikes that there is a reason, and in time that reason will become apparent and bring you to a place where you did not intend to go, but in that place, you find strength, wisdom, and peace.
Enhance Presentation Skills on the ASCO Annual Meeting Stage
Submitting your story can be vulnerable but it can also be empowering. When Dr. D’Amico sat down to submit his audition for ASCO Voices, he wondered if he could create an artistic product that would have value, that others would connect with. “I had to dig deep and listen to my inner voice and remind myself that others will find peace in hearing my story, as I did when I heard others’,” he said.
As Dr. Beg submitted his story, he remembered the process being simple: “I sat down to write a few points about the story and submitted a short audio file. I do not think the gravity of the situation really hit me until I received my acceptance email.”
Once his story was accepted, Dr. Beg expanded his address so it was ready for the 7-minute lightning talk. As the excitement of being chosen settled, humility stepped in. “Once I finalized my script, it was practice, practice, practice,” he said.
Why Storytelling Matters
When she finished her ASCO Voices presentation, Dr. Chowdry remembers feeling fulfilled. The empowerment she felt when submitting her story returned 10-fold after she shared her experience with her colleagues.
“To me, ASCO Voices is one of the most provocative and meaningful sessions at the ASCO Annual Meeting,” she said. “The stories have impacted the way I view our field and treat my patients. Your story could make a difference.”
ASCO Voices honors the deeply personal reasons that lead people into the oncology field. They come to the Annual Meeting for the latest breaking science, but they come to the ASCO Voices session to remember why they do what they do.
“Oncology is a chance to share love with others by recognizing you cannot cure everyone, but you can heal everyone you meet, whether they are the patient afflicted with cancer or their loved ones,” said Dr. D’Amico.
“Before my ASCO Voices talk, I had given hundreds of traditional, academic podium talks, but the entire experience of auditioning, being selected, preparing for, and speaking was so unique. It was an incredible experience for me, and I learned so much from the opportunity,” said Dr. Beg.
Take the Mic: Submit an Audition to ASCO Voices by November 15
The 2024 ASCO Annual Meeting will be held in Chicago, IL, from May 31 through June 4, and one of the meeting's most anticipated sessions will return. ASCO Voices is a unique opportunity to bring together a variety of perspectives to expand the view of oncology, medicine, and the world. From big ideas to personal passions, this session is centered around redefining what it means to care for people with cancer and illustrates the compassionate side of medicine.
Whether you are just starting your career in oncology or are a veteran in the field, ASCO Voices provides a platform to use your voice to support and inspire fellow oncology professionals. Auditions for the 2024 ASCO Voices session will be accepted until November 15, 2023, at 11:59 PM (ET). Auditions should be no longer than 3 minutes and should give a glimpse of what your story would be in the full 7-minute talk at the meeting. The best auditions will reveal an interesting story that highlights the humanistic side of oncology. Submit an audio-recorded audition to firstname.lastname@example.org.