This would usually be the time of year when ASCO’s delegation to the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates would be resting up from a long weekend spent shaping AMA policy. Like so many meetings, though, the AMA decided to make this a virtual abbreviated meeting. The business of the meeting focused on reports from the AMA Board and Councils and conducting elections. The ASCO delegation used this time as an opportunity to hear from all of our colleagues in cancer care delivery. We hosted a virtual cancer caucus to explore the issues our oncology community is facing. We had a lively discussion with our peers, discussing their concerns about trainees being able to find jobs and the desire to expand some telehealth changes beyond the current crisis, to name just a couple. I suspect these concerns will be the basis of future AMA-driven proposals.
Although our societal meetings are shortened, they have never been more important than they are at this moment. It is exactly times such as this that highlight just how important involvement in professional societies can and should be.
I asked members of ASCO’s delegation to the AMA to recall their personal thoughts regarding the impact of participation in professional societies.
Dr. Kristina Novick said, “While I have looked to medical societies such as the AMA and ASCO to provide me with a platform to represent my patients and my profession, I now see the power of medical societies to represent me…. I will always remember witnessing organized medicine as rising to the challenge.”
Dr. Ray Page summed his thoughts so nicely as follows: “Battling this virus successfully has involved a colossal collective effort from every soul in our society. Good advice from patients, staff, nurses, hospital systems, and physician societies has been invaluable in getting through this scourge. Societies such as our ASCO and AMA have provided essential resources for our physicians to quell this novel coronavirus.”
Dr. Thomas Marsland couched his thoughts with an appropriate element of reality. Tom felt that “in the past, oncology issues were often unique to us and had little resonance with other specialties, but life has changed. Therefore, it is critical that we stay involved and invested. No one else will do it for us.”
Even when the topics are difficult, societies provide a forum for discussion, as Dr. Steve Lee showed in a blog post from JCO Oncology Practice which he shared with us.
ASCO and the medical community overall are very fortunate to have such a devoted staff and delegation. The phrase might be growing old and perhaps a little tiresome, but it can never be overstated that we are all in this together!