Putting Together the Program

Putting Together the Program

George W. Sledge, MD, FASCO

Aug 19, 2010

I just got back from ASCO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, my second home for the year. The occasion was the meeting of the Cancer Education Committee. Planning for our Annual Meeting begins almost immediately following the completion of the previous year’s meeting, with ASCO staff compiling reams of data from the membership regarding speakers (some great, some not so great), subjects (are we covering our member’s unmet educational needs?), and the facilities (principally complaints regarding food availability and quality). All those forms we ask you to fill out really matter, particularly with regard to our speakers list.

The Cancer Ed Committee itself brings together a large number of disease and modality experts to help design next year’s education sessions. These experts represent both the Cancer Education Committee and the Scientific Program Committee—we learned many years ago the importance of integrating the two in developing our program. Before coming to the meeting, track members develop a roster of educational options for their particular track: our standard educational sessions, Meet the Professor sessions, Clinical Problems in Oncology sessions, and Clinical Science Symposia.

At the committee meeting itself these sessions are described to the entire committee, critiqued (in frequently lively discussions), and finalized. I always feel that we get a better result when many have had input, and the Cancer Education Committee is a fine example of this principle. Our education sessions almost always improve during these discussions, with the many bright people in the room adding useful, and sometimes brilliant, suggestions.

We attempt to make these sessions as diverse as possible. We are a society of academics and community practitioners, of American and ex-US researchers and clinicians. We try hard to make sure that all of our voices are heard, and represented, in our preparations.

Dr. Chuck Blanke heads the Cancer Education Committee this year. Chuck currently leads the Medical Oncology division at the University of British Columbia, having previously served on the faculties of Vanderbilt University and the Oregon Health Sciences University. You will remember him for his groundbreaking research in GIST tumors, including a wonderful plenary session presentation at out Annual Meeting. He is also an exceptional leader for our Cancer Ed Committee: passionate about bringing the latest in scientific knowledge to our membership, smart with a broad-ranging understanding of cancer, and meticulous. He also has a wonderful sense of humor, an important attribute for the cat-herder-in-chief of a large and inherently rambunctious committee.

As for the committee members themselves: I cannot thank them enough. ASCO committee work occurs largely behind the scenes. It is time-consuming, receives relatively little recognition, and takes one away from one’s family and work. What the Cancer Ed Committee members know, however, is that this is important work. Real people live or die, live good lives or suffer, based on what their doctors learn at the Annual Meeting. It is an enormous responsibility, and one that committee members embrace. We are all richer for their generosity and wisdom.


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Charles David Blanke, MD, FASCO

Aug, 20 2010 8:55 AM

Attending the Ed meeting was the most fun I've had in the last couple of years! Both Dr. Sledge and I were gratified that many of the Track leaders present were young, energetic, and as he mentioned, represented a pretty diverse group (by gender, geography, and practice type). The work of the Ed Committee is a significant commitment for these leaders and the other members, all of whom put in a ton of prep time, allowing this meeting to go smoothly and perhaps for the first time in my memory end before midnight. I also wanted to thank Dr. Kathy Miller (ASCO 2011 Scientific Program Chair), whose comments were invaluable, ASCO leadership, who were quite active participants, and of course the ASCO staff, who do 97.6% of the work.

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