I remember my first ASCO Annual Meeting: I had submitted an abstract on the re-treatment of women with ovarian cancer using carboplatin and paclitaxel, and it was selected for poster discussion. Even years later I remember strolling through the convention center (or perhaps more like sprinting) with my badge and my ribbon declaring me a “Poster Presenter.” I felt so important, but I also remember staring in awe at others in the convention center who had multiple ribbons declaring them as “Committee Chair” or “Faculty” or another such designation. “Wow, they must be really important,” I thought to myself.
As a young attending I had volunteered for ASCO committees and for the first few years nothing happened. I’d get an email saying the committees had been picked and unfortunately, I had not been selected. It was frustrating at first, but a chance meeting with ASCO editorial staff (Lisa Greaves, Amy Fries, and Virginia Anderson) led to my column with ASCO Connection. It’s something I cherish even today. And over time, my volunteer involvement in ASCO grew.
I’ve found significant professional satisfaction in ASCO, from being involved on committees—my first was the Integrated Media and Technology committee (working alongside ASCO staffer Lisa Johnson)—to chairing the Cancer Communications Committee (shout out to Kristin Ludwig, Wendy Stokes, Kelly Baldwin, and Alise Fisher), to editing the ASCO Educational Book (where I previously worked with Lauren Burke and currently have the great fortune to work alongside Lindsay Pickell), and now, as part of the Social Media Working Group (shout outs to former ASCO staffer Claire Johnston, and to a most incredible team assembled today, Gaye Walker, Kelly Cotton, and Josh Madej). To say I’ve been fortunate would be an understatement.
ASCO started its Fellows of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO) program in 2007, and each year, I would read the list of colleagues who were being celebrated. It was quite a list: mentors from Memorial Sloan Kettering, past presidents, accomplished academics, and others whom I had only known from my seat in the halls of an ASCO session or met through networking during one of the many poster sessions. As each year passed, though, many friends would also achieve the status, like Ethan Basch, Gini Fleming, and my mentor, David Spriggs (all recognized in 2016), and friends I’d known since fellowship, like Arti Hurria and Catherine van Poznak (both recognized in 2017). I won’t lie, achieving FASCO has been an important goal for me.
See, FASCO is something earned through service to ASCO and to the field of oncology. One cannot apply or pay a fee to receive it. While I am involved in many organizations, I have found a home at ASCO—one where I feel not only comfortable but valued. As a member, my voice is important, and I can make a difference. ASCO explains its FASCO honor as follows:
“The Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO) is a distinction conferred upon ASCO members to recognize their extraordinary volunteer service, dedication and commitment to ASCO. Their efforts benefit ASCO, the specialty of oncology, and most importantly, the patients for whom they serve.”
This year, I had actually done it—through years of volunteering, I was to become a Fellow. I came to the Annual Meeting with excitement and found the display of FASCO recipients. As I looked through the list for 2018 I was hit with that sense that ASCO had made a mistake. Among the inductees were true leaders in oncology, including my teachers from MSKCC—Gary Schwartz, Martee Hensley, Jedd Wolchock, and Howard Scher—as well as colleagues from SWOG—Craig Nichols and Roy Herbst. I felt I could not have possibly been named alongside any of them. But then, I recognized the names of others that I had “grown up” with—Mike Thompson, Jill Gilbert, Jyoti Patel, Chris G. Azzolli, Beverly Moy, and Manish Shah—and I felt better. Maybe I wasn’t an impostor after all.
During the meeting’s Opening Session, we were introduced as Fellows of ASCO by past president Daniel Hayes and he said something that stayed with me, that being named a Fellow was “one of the best things to happen.” I smiled then because it was true. ASCO is not only a professional society, it’s a community. I am so grateful to have earned FASCO and I will use it proudly.