Oct 19, 2017
By Carson Rolleri, ASCO Communications
In a 2013 survey, oncologists in the United States and Canada said they aim to retire at about age 64 or 65, but the majority transition into retirement in the few years after 65.1 When oncologists reach the point of retirement, the transition from ever-busy physician to retiree can be a confusing and hard-to-navigate life shift. Some oncologists might want to stay involved in the oncology community and in ASCO, but aren’t sure how to balance that with their priorities in retirement.
To help smooth the transition to retirement, ASCO has a variety of membership categories, including an emeritus category intended for retired oncologists. The goal of this type of membership is to keep interested ASCO members involved in the oncology community at a level that fits with retired life, allowing ASCO to remain a professional home for all cancer care professionals.
What Is Emeritus Membership?
Frank L. Meyskens, MD, and L. Michael Glodé, MD, FACP, FASCO, are both ASCO emeritus members. Although Dr. Meyskens is not yet retired, both he and Dr. Glodé said that they have had more time to sleep, travel, and be with family. Dr. Meyskens is still an active full-time professor at UC Irvine but noted that once he reached 70, he no longer worked 80- to 100-hour weeks. Emeritus membership is free and available for members who are 70 or older, fully retired, or permanently disabled. These members are entitled to their previous member benefits at no cost, including the ability to vote in elections and full online access to the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) and Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP). They are, however, not eligible to hold office. ASCO has approximately 4,300 emeritus members.
“This change of pace has allowed me to focus more on my laboratory research and other areas of interest, such as mentoring, medical humanities, and advanced care planning and end-of-life issues,” said Dr. Meyskens. “I now sleep in on the weekend and can rediscover all those things I enjoyed when I was much younger. My list includes writing poetry, spending quality time with our kids and grandchildren, and traveling to places that I have not yet had the opportunity to visit.”
Even as their focus shifts, many retired oncologists stay active in the oncology world.
“I’m not sure you ever really retire,” said Dr. Glodé. “Your family, friends, former patients, and professional colleagues all still value your opinion, or at least your connections with experts who can offer help for their various situations. In my case, there are ongoing responsibilities to protocols I have been involved with, Small Business Innovation Research grants I have held, and my part-time activities in a regional cancer center where I continue to see a few patients.
“My wife and I have spent much more time babysitting our grandchildren, traveling, and enjoying our friends and family. We both had fascinating and rewarding academic careers, and we still go into the medical center a few days each month to meet with our colleagues and former mentees just to stay connected. But that is very different from trying to generate salaries via patient care, administrative work, and grant writing.”
Oncologists treat retirement differently, spanning the spectrum from taking a break from oncology completely to maintaining the same schedule. As Dr. Meyskens noted, aging is an unexpected process that seems to kick in for individuals at different times. Retirement is also a time for people to pursue passions and interests outside of the medical field, and even to reflect back on oncology in a unique way. For example, Dr. Glodé joined a book club and recommended a “mandatory” book for oncologists, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, MD, to non-medical colleagues to gain a different perspective on medicine, cancer, and the author’s search for meaning in life.
Regardless of what an individual’s retirement looks like, emeritus membership status can help retirees stay involved with ASCO in a way that suits their interests and backgrounds, while allowing members to readjust their time and priorities.
“Keeping my ASCO membership once I’ve retired allows me to remain in touch with valued colleagues and be creative by re-establishing my ASCO Connection blog ‘White Coat Conversations’ and living up to the mantle of ‘Oncology’s Poet Laureate,’” said Dr. Meyskens. [Read Dr. Meyskens’s blog and an interview about his poetry.]
“Through my membership, ASCO gave me remarkable opportunities to give back to the profession,” added Dr. Glodé. “In addition to some mentoring, I have remained active in local and national foundation work to raise funds for cancer research. I’m also planning to participate in the Health Volunteers Overseas effort as an ASCO volunteer faculty member. Scanning the electronic version of JCO and reading articles in my own area have allowed me to keep in touch with the progress being made by the next generation of clinical investigators who collectively are opening up remarkable new opportunities in the fight against cancer.”
Become an Emeritus Member
To become an emeritus member, notify ASCO of your retirement by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You will receive an application for emeritus membership from Customer Service; once complete, the application will be approved by the Membership Committee in order to change categories. For members who are approaching their 70th birthday, ASCO will send you a notification 3 months prior to renewal that you are eligible for emeritus membership. There is no requirement for how active emeritus members need to be within ASCO to retain their membership, but ASCO has numerous programs and activities available for any member who wants to get more involved in the Society.
1. Clemons MJ, Vandermeer LA, Gunstone I, et al: Lost in transition? Thoughts on retirement—“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” Oncologist. 2013;18:1235-8.
Are you an emeritus member and looking for ways to stay involved in ASCO? We need your wisdom and insight! As an emeritus member, you can still volunteer and attend meetings. One way to get involved is to volunteer with ASCO’s Volunteer Corps (volunteer.asco.org), aimed at engaging diverse perspectives across the membership and providing additional flexibility for members to volunteer.