Making a Difference for Patients

Aug 26, 2015

An interview with Dr. Daniel F. Hayes, 2015-2016 President-Elect

Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FASCO, began his term as ASCO President-Elect in June, and will serve as President in 2016-2017. A breast cancer specialist, he is a Professor of Internal Medicine, the Stuart B. Padnos Professor in Breast Cancer, and the Clinical Director of the Breast Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

AC: How did you react when you learned that you had been selected as President-Elect?

Dr. Hayes: I was thrilled and honored. I actually never thought I would want to [be President], until about five years ago, when Doug Blayney was President and asked me to be Scientific Program Committee Chair. That showed me all the work that ASCO does. I’d been a member for a long time, but had never seen its inner workings. That experience stimulated me to run for the Board of Directors, and I was fortunate to be elected. That was a great experience, and that’s when I realized what an honor it would be to represent this organization as President. When I got the news that I had been elected, I was elated.

AC: What unique perspective and experience do you bring to the ASCO leadership?

Dr. Hayes: For the past 30 years, I’ve been a clinician taking care of patients, I’ve been involved in clinical research, and I’ve run a laboratory conducting translational research. In that respect, I represent clinicians and researchers on both sides of the bench. As nearly everyone has, I’ve had experiences with cancer in my own family. I’ve seen how devastating it can be. I’ve also seen what really terrific caregivers can do for patients and their families.

I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have trained with some of the founders of oncology—the people who made the field what it is. They’ve given me perspective about giving back to people who have cancer and always working to better help our patients.

AC: You’ve served on a number of ASCO committees since you joined in 1986. What experiences have been the highlights of your volunteer service?

Dr. Hayes: The thing I’m most proud of is my experience on the Tumor Marker Guidelines Panel over the past 20 years. I was one of the charter members. The panel has established specific guidelines for breast and colon cancer on using particular markers, and it has led to a number of policy statements on how tumor markers should be studied and taken into the clinic. It’s been great to see those papers have an influence internationally. The panel’s work led to a collaboration between ASCO and the College of American Pathologists (CAP)—I would talk to pathologists and they would talk to me, but ASCO and CAP didn’t have a formal relationship at the time. In 2007, given the remarkable results of trastuzumab, ASCO and CAP agreed to jointly convene a committee to review HER2 testing, jointly chaired by Antonio Wolff and myself for ASCO and Elizabeth Hammond and Jared Schwartz representing CAP. This was so successful that another joint committee reviewed hormone receptors in breast cancer. Those two collaborations have led to some very productive initiatives, one of which involves helping low-income countries that would like to improve their training in pathology. It’s been a great experience to work with terrific colleagues in both organizations to take these ideas and make them work.

I really enjoyed my time on the Breast Cancer Track of the Scientific Program Committee. I’ve been a member of the committee three times, Track Leader once, and chaired the whole committee once. It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun, and there was a great process in place that allowed track leaders and committee members to do their work and do it well.

AC: What are some issues on which you hope to have an impact during your term?

Dr. Hayes: Part of the job is just to keep the ship sailing in the right direction, and ASCO is absolutely moving in the right direction. It’s had great leadership over the years, and frankly, it’s pretty humbling to look backwards and think about the shoes into which I’m stepping!

[Current President] Dr. Julie Vose and I have discussed how to address the increasingly burdensome hurdles to doing clinical research in this country. She is going to implement some of these ideas beginning in her presidency, and I’m very supportive of this.

I’m very interested in many of the global cancer projects initiated by [Immediate Past President] Dr. Peter Yu, such as this year’s Global Oncology Symposium, which was quite a success. I don’t have a lot of experience in this area but I’m eager to learn.

I’m excited about ASCO’s work in regards to value. We’ve been worried about the cost of drugs for quite some time, but it’s about more than just cost. It’s about whether the therapies and the diagnostics we’re recommending really have value in terms of bettercare for our patients. ASCO’s Value Framework is going to be a really important roadmap.

We need to continue to address issues in the oncology workforce, not just for physicians but for nurse practitioners and physician assistants. We also need to reach out to medical students and doctors in training and get them excited about becoming oncologists. They don’t get much experience with oncology until their clinical years, and by that time many of them are interested in other fields. We need to show them what we do and why we do it.

There are a lot of issues faced by clinicians in practice, and I’m excited to work with Dr. Steve Grubbs in his new role as Director of ASCO’s Clinical Affairs Department.

And of course, I’m very excited about CancerLinQ, and all of its many possibilities. ASCO believes this will be a game changer for understanding more about care of patients with cancer, and we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what it will provide.

Finally, I will be faced with the challenge of welcoming a new CEO at the same time I receive the gavel, as Dr. Allen Lichter steps down after a decade of incredible growth and success under his leadership. Of course, I’m excited about this opportunity, and have enormous faith that the selection committee will have a terrific slate of enormously qualified and experienced candidates from which to choose. I am confident that ASCO will continue to fulfill its mission as the place for patients and their caregivers to go for help and guidance.

Fundamentally, what I want to do is make a difference for all of our constituencies, but ultimately for our patients. When I was on the ASCO Board of Directors, every decision that we made was based on whether it was best for patients. That’s what I hope to maintain.

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