The recent long Fourth of July weekend was a quiet one, which is what one hopes for when one is on call. The silver lining of working a holiday is that even the cancer world somehow manages to slow down a bit, which afforded me time for my ASCO homework of reviewing the over 100 ASCO members who have been proposed to run for one of our elected positions as an ASCO officer (President and Treasurer), Board Member, or Nominating Committee member. Over the next two months, the Nominating Committee will winnow this list down to 14 candidates for the seven open positions.
On what basis are the final candidates selected? Almost all have distinguished themselves as leaders in patient care, teaching, and research within their area of oncology. But while we reserve Board positions by professional field of activity to ensure diversity (community, international, surgical and so on), we are electing members who have the breadth of Society work experience that confers intimate knowledge of the ASCO organization and an appreciation of the complex issues that challenge us today as we prepare for an uncertain tomorrow. Critical to developing those skills is prior activity as a volunteer on an ASCO committee, taskforce, workgroup or journal editorial board. Volunteer work in ASCO means addressing the most fascinating and important cancer issues that impact the nation and increasingly, the world. It is among the most professionally fulfilling of activities and an unparalleled opportunity for personal growth; working alongside colleagues and the dedicated and highly knowledgeable ASCO staff.
ASCO has over 20 committees to choose from. Applications to serve on an ASCO committee for 2015 are now being accepted through December 31, 2014, on the ASCO website after which Julie Vose, ASCO President 2015-2016, will make the final committee appointments.
Although many of the ASCO committees are well known to the volunteer constituency, some are of more recent origin and subsequently less well known. Even for those committees whose name seems self-explanatory, such as the Clinical Practice or Research committees, the actual work agenda of the committee is not readily available, even though these committees are tackling highly contentious issues that impact a large part of the cancer world and the daily lives of ASCO members and our patients. To attempt to rectify this, John Cox, our Journal of Oncology Practice editor and Chair of the ASCO Education Committee will work with the 2015 Annual Meeting Education track leaders to include educational sessions that present the challenging issues that the ASCO committees have identified and are focused on addressing.
The ASCO 2014 elections will take place towards the end of the calendar year. During my four years serving as an ASCO Board member and President-Elect, I have witnessed over and over again the ease with which Board members learn from and adapt to the diverse perspectives of the other Board members, as the whole Board becomes one body sharing equally in the pursuit of the ASCO mission and vision. But it is critical that the Board truly reflect the full spectrum of ASCO membership. That can only occur if we elect the Board Members and officers who understand, appreciate and are fully committed to representing the needs and desires of ASCO membership. The percent of ASCO members who voted in the last election in 2013 has continued a recent downward trend, a trend that is a clear threat to our Society’s ability to anticipate and plan for our next 50 years.
Those next 50 years promise exceptional progress that will re-define for the better what it means to be a clinical oncologist and the experience of being a cancer patient. Being an ASCO member means having a front row seat to witness that change and being an ASCO volunteer means being a driver of that transformation. I encourage every ASCO member to consider how the world can benefit from his or her insights and work as an ASCO volunteer.