By Kaori Tane, MD
I am a Japanese breast surgeon, and it is my pleasure to share my experience participating in the first ASCO Asia Pacific Leadership Development Program (LDP-AP).
In recent years, leadership skills have gained much importance for health care providers. There are many programs about leadership available to physicians in the United States, Europe, and other regions. However, in Japan, the opportunity for medical doctors to learn leadership skills is very limited, as leadership training is primarily available through foreign-affiliated companies. By my account, there is currently only one online leadership skills training program in which Japanese physicians are able to participate; furthermore, this training is unconnected with Japanese oncology societies. At the international level, several medical societies offer leadership skills training programs. ASCO has offered its Leadership Development Program (LDP) to U.S.-based physicians for many years, and in 2021, it expanded the program to participants in the Asia Pacific region. I was among those who experienced the first ASCO LDP-AP.
Our LDP-AP cohort consisted of 12 participants (five men and seven women), all from different countries in the Asia Pacific region. Among the participants were eight medical or clinical oncologists, two radiation oncologists, one gynecologist, and one surgeon (me).
The program spanned from November 2021 to November 2022. Throughout the yearlong program our cohort led monthly three-hour online meetings. Each meeting covered one or two topics, such as self-awareness and understanding others, time management, communication, presentation skills, coaching and mentoring, team building, strategic planning, advocacy, burnout, and others. These meetings consisted of interactive lectures, small-group discussions, roleplay exercises, and presentations. I found all the programs to be well thought-out. The strategic planning training was very helpful for me and I continue to use these skills for my current projects. The presentation skills training and feedback sessions were very practical and educational. I learned valuable tools to provide effective feedback to my team members. Moreover, the training highlighted the importance of respect in the work environment.
Expanding Our Skills During Small-Group Projects
In addition to monthly meetings, we were divided into three small groups, each of which was given one topic to develop throughout the year with the support of a mentor and coach. Small groups met online almost every week for one hour. Our team was named MINT as an abbreviation for the countries represented by our members: Malaysia, Indonesia, Nippon (Japan), and Taiwan.
My group’s project was on the topic of political will. We conducted a situation analysis for each of our home countries, and ultimately, we chose to focus on Indonesia’s situation. As you may be aware, Indonesia is an archipelagic state, including hundreds of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups. Despite the presence of underlying problems, such as limited access to medications and hospital care, low rates of cancer screening, inadequate oncology training, limited public awareness, and the lack of an established advocacy platform in Indonesia, there are currently limited opportunities for Indonesian oncologists to engage in discussions with policymakers or stakeholders regarding these issues. Our project was titled “Cancer Advocacy Program in Indonesia,” with the vision of creating a sustainable network for cancer control throughout the country. Our plan was to provide on-demand cancer advocacy training at the local level, establish local cancer control platforms, and organize a national cancer forum.
By working with my small group, I realized that I needed to acquire a better knowledge of the situation in my own country, in order to explain it to other members. This was a remarkable learning opportunity. In addition, this small-group experience served as a starting point for my interest in advocacy. Now I am motivated to study and engage in this topic.
Participating in the LDP-AP program offered benefits beyond the formal curriculum. One of the best experiences I had in our small-group project was the leader rotation system. Each member took a turn as the small-group leader for about three months, with specific responsibilities. Although I am sometimes hesitant to speak English and am much more comfortable communicating in Japanese, because all of my LDP-AP colleagues were from different countries, we had to communicate in a common language. The small-group project and leader rotation system provided me with a valuable opportunity to practice communication.
In addition, I learned how to handle large tasks using strategic planning skills and taking responsibility, especially when it was my turn to lead the group. I divided big tasks into smaller pieces, set achievable goals, and established rough deadlines.
My small group spent much time together, and we built a strong relationship of trust. I am very thankful for my lovely MINT team members: Dr. David Lee, Dr. Tiara Bunga Mayang Permata, Dr. Harvey Yu-Li Su, our mentor Dr. Martin Stockler, and our coach Dr. Monica Malik.
We presented our small-group projects in November 2022 at an in-person meeting of the ASCO Asia Pacific Regional Council in Singapore, where we also had our last LDP-AP sessions.
Life-Changing Experience, Lifelong Connections
The LDP-AP was a life-changing experience for me and I received a lot of practical skills and knowledge throughout the program. However, the best part was the networking with 11 young Asian leaders—Dr. Hang T. Hoang, Dr. Jimmy A. Billod, Dr. Krittya Korphaisarn, Dr. Minkyu Jung, Dr. Rashid Lui, Dr. Ruinuo Jia, Dr. Sophia Frentzas, and Dr. Wah Wah Myint Zu, along with the members of my small group—and with the ASCO faculty and staff. We will keep in touch with and help each other in the future.
Every faculty and staff member has been so kind and has encouraged me every time: Dr. Frank D. Ferris, Dr. Shannon Y. Moore, Dr. Roselle de Guzman, Dr. Rebecca Dent, Dr. Melvin Lee Kiang Chua, Dr. Lilian L. Siu, Ariella Gould, and Vanessa Eaton. I really appreciate your efforts.
Furthermore, I am thankful that I was given a chance to attend ASCO’s Multidisciplinary Cancer Management Course in collaboration with City Cancer Challenge in Malaysia as a member of the ASCO faculty. From this life-defining experience, I have started to think about what I can do to improve cancer care and treatment in Asia as a Japanese breast surgeon.
In my opinion, leadership is not a single quality. Leadership consists of a series of actions you take, such as respecting others, taking responsibility, communicating to share values and goals, motivating and inspiring others, acknowledging and understanding different perspectives, mitigating disruptive forces, and leading team members on the same path. These activities can unite and energize the team, increase outputs, and foster young oncologists who will represent the world-class next generation of leaders in our field.
Respecting others means respecting every member of the team. Every team member has the potential to demonstrate leadership in their own role, and it is important for all medical staff, including nurses and other care team members, to receive leadership skills training.
Now that my LDP-AP year has concluded, I have a plan concerning my positive impact on my country and Asia. My first mission will be to expand my experiences and raise awareness about the importance of leadership skills training for Japanese and Asian oncologists, medical staff, and students. I am currently planning to design and deliver leadership skills training and leadership development programs in my country. My aim is to find and develop the future leaders who will be able to implement strategic initiatives, improve management initiatives, and facilitate effective team-building. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Furthermore, I am committed to continuing my contributions toward delivering high-quality cancer care and treatment in Asia.
I’m so happy I was one of the first members of this valuable program. Thank you again for giving me this wonderful opportunity.
Dr. Tane is a breast surgeon at Hyogo Cancer Center in Hyogo, Japan.