May 17, 2010
May 2010: In order to best assist oncology professionals at their local level, some ASCO affiliate organizations choose to leverage the resources available across several states. The Northern New England Clinical Oncology Society (NNECOS) serves members in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. In an interview in January 2010 with ASCO News & Forum, President Steven M. Grunberg, MD, and Executive Director Lori Aubrey speak on behalf of NNECOS about the society’s accomplishments and future challenges.
|All Under One Umbrella: State cancer registry chiefs from New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont partnered with NNECOS leadership on the society's Access to Care projects.|
AN&F: When was NNECOS founded? How many members does it serve today?
NNECOS: In 1990, A. Collier Smyth, MD, of New Hampshire, and Ronald J. Carroll, MD, of Maine, began initial activities to start a regional clinical oncology society to serve the three northern New England states—Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. NNECOS serves approximately 210 members in the region; members include medical oncologists and radiation oncologists from both community practice and academic practice, as well as nurses, non-physician practitioners, practice administrators, and other members of the oncology care team.
AN&F: What have been some of the Society’s major accomplishments since its founding?
NNECOS: Our major accomplishments include:
- Receiving three ASCO State Affiliate Grants (Academic Enhancement of Annual Meeting, 2005-2006 cycle; Oncology Care in Rural Northern New England, 2007-2008 cycle; Clinical Trials Barrier Study, 2008-2009 cycle)
- The planned publication of an original research manuscript in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP) based on the “Oncology Care in Rural Northern New England” study
- Being named a finalist for the 2010 Susan G. Komen for the Cure/The ASCO Cancer Foundation Improving Cancer Care Grant for our project, “Improving Access to Breast Cancer Care in Rural Northern New England” (awardees to be announced March 2010)
- The successful organization of an annual Spring Meeting focusing on practice management issues and an annual Fall Meeting focusing on clinical care and clinical research issues
AN&F: What are some of the unique challenges that members of NNECOS, particularly those practicing in rural areas, face?
NNECOS: The ability for a patient to access care in rural areas may be limited both by patient and network/provider considerations. Providing adequate care in rural areas requires coordinated planning and resource management to limit barriers to care in patients with cancer. State borders do not result in isolation but geographic challenges may play a significant role. The infrastructure in place to deliver cancer care in northern New England is fragile, and the resources available to provide these services will be difficult to maintain.
AN&F: Can you describe the unique structure of your Board? How did the decision to organize your Board in such a way come about?
NNECOS: Our Board is composed of a combination of physician members and associate members (nurses and oncology practice executives). The Presidency is rotated annually among the three states and has been held by both community and academic oncologists, recognizing our common interest in the delivery of high-quality cancer care in our region.
The regional model was selected because each of the three states individually had only a small number of oncologists in clinical practice. With the three states combined, there were about thirty oncologists at the time of NNECOS’s founding, exclusive of those in academic practice. Active involvement of both community oncologists and university oncologists has encouraged interaction and collaboration to the advantage of all concerned. The addition of associate member representation to the Board in 2005 strengthened the society’s ability to represent oncology professionals from across the region.
The Board structure has worked very well. When NNECOS amended its bylaws to include associate members, our membership and educational meetings grew significantly.
AN&F: How do you engage the Board, and the membership, to work towards solutions to the obstacles that NNECOS members face?
NNECOS: The Board participates in scheduled bimonthly teleconferences, as well as an annual in-person meeting, and remains in contact through email between teleconferences. Additional work is completed by subcommittees. A quarterly e-newsletter, NNECOS News, is emailed to members with pertinent information and updates. Additionally, a “Members Forum” on the society’s website (www.nnecos.org) posts important news, information, and resources between issues of the e-newsletter.
AN&F: What are NNECOS’ major priorities and initiatives for 2010?
NNECOS: In 2010, NNECOS continues to focus on access to care and increasing involvement of fellows and nurses, and to provide timely information related to keeping an oncology practice alive in the increasingly difficult economic climate.
This article was originally posted on the website for ASCO News & Forum (now ASCO Connection), January 2010