Preparing for the Presidency

Mar 25, 2011

April 2011 issue: Leadership Voices: An interview with 2011-2012 ASCO President-Elect Sandra M. Swain, MD.

Before beginning a term as the Society’s President, ASCO’s highest volunteer leader first serves one year in the office of President-Elect. Sandra M. Swain, MD, will take on this role at the 2011 ASCO Annual Meeting, in which she will assist the incoming President, Michael P. Link, MD, and prepare for Society governance in 2012.

AC: How did you react when you learned that you won the election for the position of President-Elect?

Dr. Swain: I was ecstatic. I’ve been very committed to the organization for a long time, and it’s great to have the opportunity to take a greater leadership role.

AC: What are your goals as President-Elect?

Dr. Swain: One of my first priorities is working with the International Affairs Committee and the international membership. One-third of our members are international and over half our Annual Meeting attendees are international, so I want to look at ways that we can enhance the experience for them—not only at the Annual Meeting, but in general as members.

I also plan to look at ways to increase the multidisciplinary membership (surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, etc.) since we all work very closely together in our daily practice.

AC: During the recent ASCO election, you noted that expanded relationships with government agencies will be a priority during your term. On what issues do you expect to focus?

Dr. Swain: With the NCI, FDA, and different governmental groups, one of the key issues will be endpoints for approval of different drugs and agents for use in oncology—specifically, defining ideal endpoints for maximum patient benefit. Also, the NCI is already acting on the Institute of Medicine report (A National Cancer Clinical Trials System for the 21st Century: Reinvigorating the NCI Cooperative Group Program) and making recommendations for changes in the cooperative groups. Richard L. Schilsky, MD, an ASCO Past President, is currently involved in this issue.

AC: What unique perspectives or experiences will you bring to ASCO leadership?

Dr. Swain: I’ve had a diverse professional experience. I’ve worked within the government, I’ve worked at Georgetown University, I’m now working at a non-university–based academic center, and I’ve been on the advisory committee for the FDA. I’ve seen research and practice from many different viewpoints, and I’ve worked with many different constituencies.

AC: What led you to choose oncology as a specialty?

Dr. Swain: It was my residency program at Vanderbilt, which is very strong in oncology. The fellows that I worked with there and the faculty were outstanding.

AC: You’ve served on a wide variety of ASCO committees. Do any experiences stand out?

Dr. Swain: I really enjoyed serving as Chair of the Cancer Education Committee. It’s a very large committee of about 180 members and plans the educational half of the Annual Meeting. It was a great opportunity to focus on areas that were relevant to all the different subspecialties in ASCO. And working with so many bright, talented physician volunteers and ASCO staff was great.

Dr. Swain is the Medical Director of Washington Hospital Center’s Washington Cancer Institute, a Professor in the Department of Medicine at Georgetown University, and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine in the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. An ASCO member since 1986, Dr. Swain currently serves on the Board of Directors, Finance Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee.

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