“What’s next?” This question seems to be top of mind for all of us lately. The weeks following the ASCO Annual Meeting are always a time of transition as we synthesize new knowledge. That feeling of flux is heightened this year as the COVID-19 situation evolves and the vaccine rollout continues. Unfortunately, it is heightened further by the politicization of basic health and safety measures that erupted during the pandemic, and by the mistrust of science that has hindered vaccination. (I worry that this mistrust will impact cancer clinical trial accrual, and truly hope that doesn’t prove to be the case.) In this swirl of progress and setbacks, what comes next for us, for our work, for our world?
Dr. Lori J. Pierce concluded her 2020-2021 presidential term with an inspiring address on health equity. What comes next, she said, will be determined by our commitment to fighting injustice in health care: “We must capitalize on the momentum and hold ourselves accountable. Success is within our reach. In other words, it’s our time. It’s our time—and our responsibility.”
Dr. Everett E. Vokes, who began his term as 2021-2022 ASCO president in June, looks ahead to his presidential year and the future of cancer care, informed by the lessons of the pandemic and ASCO’s long-held dedication to equitable, accessible care. “I would like to work on some of those innovations that forced change on society at large—and, of course, on our profession—that might otherwise have taken much longer if it had not been for the pandemic,” he said.
Dr. Julie R. Gralow talks about what’s next in terms of ASCO’s global vision. She brings a wealth of experience in global collaboration to her role as ASCO chief medical officer and is uniquely positioned to support the Society’s ambitious initiatives in global health over the coming years.
As we consider what comes next in our clinical research enterprise, a key question is how we make trials—and subsequent discoveries—inclusive of and available to a more diverse group of participants. We know there is much to be done in this area. An investigation using data from CancerLinQ found that representation of the transgender patient experience in oncology electronic medical records is wholly inadequate—in the vast majority of cases, transgender identity is not captured at all. An ongoing collaboration between ASCO and ACCC will test interventions (in the form of site assessments and implicit bias training) to ensure that every patient who is eligible for a clinical trial is offered the opportunity to participate. Research is intended for the benefit of all, and we must take steps to ensure that no one is erased.
For young oncologists who are moving to the next phase of their training, embarking on the search for their first job, or applying for their first grant funding, the question of what’s next can be underscored by very real trepidation and uncertainty. Fortunately, others have been in your shoes and can offer a hand from the other side of those early career transitions. Dr. Megan E. Emmich gives a candid account of her experience as a first-year fellow. Dr. Asrar AlAhmadi shares practical advice on the oncology job search so that you can confidently answer the question, “So, what are your plans after graduation?” And experienced grant reviewer Dr. Oladapo Yeku has tips for avoiding common pitfalls in your funding applications.
As we move into the second half of the year, I wish all of you the best in whatever comes next.