by James N. Frame MD, FACP
ASCO’s State Affiliate Council (SAC) serves as a communication link between the State/Regional Affiliate Program and the ASCO Board of Directors on issues affecting community oncology in its various settings. Through Council Representatives from each Affiliate and an elected Executive Subcommittee leadership team with collaborative interactions with the ASCO Board and committee volunteers, the Council serves as a grassroots “sentinel,” informing and shaping advocacy efforts and policies of relevance for our members.
Now in its third year of service, the SAC has recently added Council Representatives from new Affiliates and addressed a number of practice issues of current interest. Highlights of our 2014-15 activities included:
- Welcoming to the Council the Puerto Rico Association of Hematology and Medical Oncology (President, Dr. José Dávila), our first U.S. Territory Affiliate, and the restructured Montana State Oncology Society (President, Dr. Venu Thirukonda). The Council recognizes the efforts of the Florida Society of Clinical Oncology (FLASCO) for mentoring the Puerto Rico Affiliate and the Association of Community Cancer Center’s Oncology State Society Network for taking on the management of the Montana Affiliate.
- Presenting the Council’s diverse concerns regarding oncology clinical pathways to ASCO President Dr. Peter Paul Yu and the ASCO Board of Directors who, in January 2015, directed the formation of a Clinical Pathways Task Force, chaired by Dr. Robin Zon. Our concerns regarding the policies, quality, safety, variability, and the multitude of pathways (among others) impacting practice sites are being addressed through this process. An ASCO Policy Statement that addresses attributes of a preferred clinical pathway/process and certification proposal is nearing completion for ASCO Board review and approval on behalf of our membership.
- Demonstrating solidarity in SGR repeal by gathering the support and signatures of 47 State/Regional Affiliates in a March 2015 ASCO grassroots letter to Congress within 24 hours of request! Kudos to our State/Regional Affiliate Presidents, Executive Directors, and ASCO staff in this tremendous effort!
- Implementing the Council’s first Dashboard Survey designed to canvass our Council Representatives and State Societies on issues impacting practice administrative burdens (among others) - identified pre-authorization as a hot topic. The Council’s findings are included in ASCO’s State of Cancer Care in America, 2015 report and in a forthcoming panel discussion on practice administrative burdens to be held during ASCO’s 2015 Annual Meeting (Panel Chair, Dr. Robin Zon). In addition, a working group of the Clinical Practice Committee (CPC) is actively engaged with this issue. Imbedding prior authorization reform in the clinical pathways process is also a subject of our ongoing advocacy efforts.
- Providing a Council voice in ASCO initiatives, including the Payment Reform and Implementation Work Groups, Provider-Payer Emerging Issues Work Group and affiliated Provider-Payer Initiative, Chemotherapy Safe Handling Work Group (a special thanks to Dr. Paul Celano for leading the Council’s work), and Elections and Nominations Task Force.
- Revising the Council’s election process to include the establishment of a Nominating Committee (Chair, Immediate Past-Chair, and Chair-elect) to streamline the slate of nominees for elected Executive Subcommittee positions, as well as including Executive Directors in the voting process. The ASCO Board approved these changes in November 2014, and they became operational for our spring 2015 Elections.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize our hard working and dedicated Executive Subcommittee Members, Presidents, Board Members, Membership, Executive Directors and ASCO staff for informing and guiding the activities and work product of the Council. ASCO President Dr. Peter Paul Yu and Board Members, as well as Dr. Robin Zon, CPC Chair, and Dr. Blaise Polite, Government Relations Committee (GRC) Chair and innumerable ASCO volunteers and staff have collaboratively championed many grassroots’ initiatives brought forth by the Council on behalf of our membership, affording them thoughtful review, context in the “big picture,” and opportunities to make relevant differences for those we serve.
Additionally, it is my pleasure to welcome our incoming Council Chair, Dr. Paul Celano (MD/DC) and Chair-elect, Dr. Tracey Weisberg (VT-NH-ME), as well as new Executive Subcommittee Members, Dr. Peter Paul Yu (Board Liaison), Dr. Warren Fong (S-CA) and Dr. Thomas Marsland (FL). To our outgoing Executive Subcommittee Members, Dr. Clifford Hudis (ASCO Immediate Past President), Dr. Ray Page (Immediate Past Council Chair and Current President, Texas Society of Clinical Oncology) and Dr. Dane Dickson (Council Representative, Idaho Society of Clinical Oncology) the Council recognizes your dedication and innumerable contributions and offers its grateful thanks for a “Job Well Done!”
Dr. James Frame is a hematologist oncologist at the Charleston Area Medical Center Cancer Center in Charleston, WV, where he serves as Medical Director. His is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of West Virginia University School of Medicine-Charleston Division. Dr. Frame is the current Chair of the ASCO State Affiliate Council and Board Member/prior President of the West Virginia Oncology Society.