In June, Dr. Lynn M. Schuchter took office as ASCO’s 60th president. In this issue’s cover story, Dr. Schuchter discusses her career path, her volunteer experience, and her priorities in this leadership role. The presidential theme she selected is “The Art and Science of Cancer Care: From Comfort to Cure,” and as a gynecologic oncologist boarded in palliative care, I’m thrilled to see palliative care and serious illness conversations as one of the foci of Dr. Schuchter’s term.
Following the ASCO Annual Meeting, the conversations in the news, on social media, and in the hallways of our institutions tend to be dominated by advances in the field—promising new treatments, genetic targets unlocked, gains in overall survival. These discoveries are certainly worth celebrating, the science of cancer care that is moving us closer toward our goal of cure, which Dr. Schuchter notes in her theme.
But we need to care just as much about the art of cancer care, about the comfort that we are uniquely positioned to offer to patients and families suffering from cancer. Physical comfort in the form of symptom management, psychological comfort in the form of our time and attention, spiritual comfort in the form of our empathy and human connection. These are areas where we can all continue to develop professionally in order to provide better, more compassionate cancer care, and I’m glad to see them elevated during Dr. Schuchter’s term.
The foundation of high-quality palliative care is communication, she acknowledges: “When treatments fail, it is so important that we have the difficult conversations with patients about their prognosis and that we understand their values and wishes. Clarity about our patients’ goals better informs treatment and care planning and transitions to palliative or hospice care, especially near the end of life.”
Coming off the excitement of ASCO23, this is a key moment for all of us to practice and develop our communication skills, to recommit to delivering information with honesty and kindness, and to be willing to ask the hard questions and have the serious conversations that enable us to deliver the best possible care.
Also in this issue, you can read Dr. Eric P. Winer’s moving and highly personal address, delivered as he concluded his presidential term at the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting, on the inspiring theme of “Partnering With Patients: The Cornerstone of Clinical Care and Research."
Finally, a special congratulations is due to all of the recipients of grants and awards given in conjunction with the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting—over 400 individuals, representing more than 30 countries.
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