Updated September 26, 2018.
As a member of ASCO, I hope you are aware that our organization is led by a dedicated group of elected volunteers who meet several times per year to provide strategic guidance and direction to the staff. I am writing to share the results of the most recent meeting of the Board, held in the hottest days of August at our headquarters in Alexandria, VA. As an aside, some of you may have glimpsed the ASCO logo in the background during the coverage of the Manafort trial which took place literally across the street from us! Clearly, we are finding ourselves at the center of attention in more ways than you might have imagined!
Before recapping some highlights of the ASCO Board’s August meeting, I would first like to express my gratitude to those of you who participated in our recent member survey. Your responses to the survey were invaluable during this most recent Board meeting as they provided new and critical information about the state of care, research and practice we need to most effectively guide ASCO to meet your needs. The Board had its first chance to look at early data from the survey as well as some high-level observations and began an in-depth conversation about how to best engage members more effectively and add value to your ASCO membership. You will see and hear more about this in the months ahead. Already, and in line with our core values (Evidence, Care, and Impact), the Board began what I expect will be an ongoing discussion of the diverse needs of our members, the many ways we interact with all of our stakeholders, and how we communicate about that - but even more importantly, how we deliver.
CancerLinQ is, of course, a key aspect of our vision for the future of ASCO and to help us build this exciting future the Board had the chance to welcome new CancerLinQ CEO, Cory Wiegert. We appreciated that he was willing to spend his third and fourth days on his new job attending the ASCO Board meeting and rapidly gaining an understanding of our vision for CancerLinQ as well as the real-world needs of our members. Please take a moment to read more about Cory and his new appointment as CancerLinQ CEO.
As we strive to increase the utility of your ASCO membership, one overarching goal is to personalize our content delivery so that users have a more efficient experience. In that regard, the Board decided to move forward with further personalization of delivery of Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) content, including ads, in a very controlled way in order to deliver information that is relevant to the reader but not overly intrusive. As many of you know, getting the balance right is something that the largest technology companies are publicly struggling with right now. Given the rapid evolution of thought and technology in this area, the Board has directed that we provide a clear way for JCO readers to opt out of personalization if desired. You will see these options and upgrades in the coming months and we hope you will take advantage of the opportunities to personalize content as you feel comfortable.
Along with changes to JCO, ASCO has been diligently working on transforming our email communications in response to valuable member feedback. You want emails that are relevant, personalized, and streamlined: we hear you! And we ask for your patience while we lay the essential groundwork with software, data centralization, and technology solutions that will enable us to serve you better. These intial steps have already resulted in fewer general emails being distributed from ASCO, and the information you receive from us will continue to be more tailored and relevant to your interests as we develop these tools. As with the changes to JCO, delivering a meaningful level of email personalization is a challenging undertaking, but we are determined to do it right. Work is currently underway and we look forward to sharing more about this transformation as the project moves forward.
The Board spent some time reviewing Cancer.Net, our widely recognized and globally popular patient-facing information site. Noting its growth since inception, the Board reaffirmed that Cancer.Net is an important resource that will continue to be supported by ASCO and Conquer Cancer without commercial sponsors. We will continue to explore new ways to support Cancer.Net’s growth and deepen its impact.
Another specific report to the Board addressed access to care in rural America. Some of you may have noted the recent JAMA paper that underscored the favorable impact of offering clinical trials participation in rural areas. During our meeting, the Board discussed access to cancer care in rural parts of the country as an addressable disparities challenge. In response, the ASCO Clinical Affairs staff is already starting to work with volunteers to deliver a formal proposal to improve rural access. This should be brought to the Board for further discussion and action during their November meeting.
The Policy and Advocacy staff provided an update on ASCO’s ongoing advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and with the Administration. The intensity of our engagement in policy and advocacy issues is evident, and the Board is keenly interested in the broad range of issues we have to tackle, both responsively and proactively, and the approach we take. We do not expect any slowing of the rapid pace of work in this area any time soon!
We also spent time discussing the status of ASCO’s 2018 strategic goals. ASCO's vice presidents were able to share some of the progress made toward achieving the goals and gave the Board a preview of the 2019 shared goals and targets. The Board’s suggestions were critical as we work on developing our 2019 budget.
During an open discussion session, the Board opted to tackle the question of how ASCO can better recognize and counter any biases that may have crept into our grantmaking programs. This issue is getting attention nationally and we have an opportunity to lead and contribute to this discussion. We will work with Board members Drs. Reshma Jagsi and Eric Small, and with the Leadership Development Program team that has made this an active learning project, to offer some concrete process improvements.
The Board will meet again at ASCO Headquarters in November 2018. We will bring you another update following that meeting - and hope we won’t have another trial at our front door!