IDEAs to Improve Cancer Care

Jul 14, 2015

An International Mentee’s Perspective on IDEA

By Herman A. Perroud, MD, PhD
Italian Hospital of Rosario & Institute of Experimental Genetics, National University of Rosario, Argentina

The first time I learned about the Conquer Cancer Foundation’s (CCF) International Development and Education Award (IDEA) was when I was submitting an abstract to the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting with the results of my doctorate thesis. I discovered that ASCO and the Foundation offer several different programs to physicians from outside the United States. To be honest, at first I thought that it was out of my reach, but I asked my mentor, Dr. Carlos Alasino, and my doctorate director, Dr. Graciela Scharovsky, and both encouraged me to apply for the IDEA.

I started researching the IDEA program and sent in my application, with no expectations about being selected. You can imagine my surprise (and happiness) when I received the email with the award confirmation! I read it several times to be sure that it was real and I understood it correctly. The CCF staff were very kind and warm, communicating with me very frequently and making sure that everything was clear, both before my trip and during my stay in the United States.

2015 ASCO Annual Meeting

At the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting, I met all the 2015 IDEA recipients, who were very friendly and as excited about the Meeting as I was. The cultural exchange that it promotes with the other recipients is fascinating. The opportunity to discuss ideas and thoughts about how to solve common problems was a motivating experience.

This was my first time at the ASCO Annual Meeting as an advanced resident in clinical oncology and attending the Education and Poster Discussion Sessions was a fascinating experience. At the Meeting, the financial toxicity and treatment costs problems for patients were very clear and highlighted in most presentations, and emphasized the need for better uses of the resources we already have, especially when they are scarce, which is often the case in Argentina.

I also had the fortune to meet my IDEA mentor, Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi, at the Meeting. He was very kind and introduced me to many renowned oncology researchers, like Dr. V. Craig Jordan, and many other members from the MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC).

Post-ASCO Annual Meeting and Beyond

Drs. Gabriel Hortobagyi and Rashmi Murthy were my mentors for my post-ASCO Annual Meeting extended tour of the Breast Cancer Department at MDACC. In those four days, they showed me the Cancer Center, including the multidisciplinary Nellie B. Connally Breast Cancer Center, Breast Cancer Survivorship Clinic, and the research and laboratory buildings. They also gave me the opportunity to participate in some tumor board and research discussions. While visiting, I had meetings with many members of the Breast Cancer Department, all of whom encouraged me to continue studying and working towards becoming the translational oncologist I want to be.

My challenges for the next several months are obtaining the funding to continue my postdoctoral fellowship and trying to build a bridge between my home institution and MDACC for future collaborations. I am aware that a big effort is necessary to build and maintain the relationship between our institutions, but I am determined to do my best to make it happen.

The IDEA offers an excellent opportunity to create networking platforms in oncology. I want to highlight the support that CCF and its donors provide—without it, this type of program would not be possible. I definitely support participation in the program, which gives recipients the chance to make a significant change in the life of patients with cancer at their home institutions.

Born and raised in a small town in Argentina, Herman Andrés Perroud obtained his medical degree in 2009 from the School of Medical Sciences at the National University of Rosario (UNR) in Argentina. Currently, he is a Resident of the Department of Medical Oncology at the Italian Hospital of Rosario and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Experimental Genetics in the School of Medical Sciences at UNR.

A Mentor’s Perspective on IDEA

By Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, MD, FACP, FASCO
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

The IDEA developed while I was on the ASCO Board of Directors and has since grown and flourished. The concept was Dr. Larry Einhorn’s brainchild, but it was rapidly embraced by the Board and CCF. I have been privileged to serve as mentor to several IDEA awardees. It is a most rewarding experience and it provides an opportunity to meet young, ambitious physicians from various parts of the developing world, contribute to the development of their vision for a better future for patients with cancer in their countries, and open doors to enhance their career development as physicians, oncologists, educators, and investigators. I have learned so much from each of the awardees I have mentored to date, as we discuss their countries, the health care system in which they work, their ambitions and frustrations, their opportunities and obstacles, and their commitment to grow to be the best physicians and scientists they can become. For those of us who work in a fully resourced cancer center, it is humbling to meet these young physicians who work with limited resources and opportunities and who face many obstacles to provide the best care to their patients.

The opportunity to meet Dr. Perroud was wonderful. I have traveled to Argentina many times over the past several decades and have a fairly good understanding of the health care system there. It was truly a privilege to mentor Dr. Perroud during the Annual Meeting and discuss topics of mutual interest in research and patient care between sessions. It was fun to orient him during the massive gathering and to serve as an informal guide to help him get the most of the Annual Meeting. His visit to MDACC was a great opportunity to show him a modern and well-resourced center, but, most importantly, to discuss the many processes in place to provide patient-centered care and research-driven clinical management. It was also an opportunity to introduce him to key investigators in the institution and open doors to possible future collaborations and scientific interactions.

My ties with previous IDEA awardees have continued to date. We meet at the ASCO Annual Meeting if they have the opportunity to return and interact by email or phone. I have been pleased to continue providing a link to other colleagues, investigators, and educators who might provide opportunities for growth and collaboration.

IDEA is a wonderful program that offers the best and brightest from countries of limited resources the opportunity to see how oncology is practiced elsewhere, develop networks, and find opportunities for career growth. The vision of the ASCO and CCF Boards has generated a growing cohort of motivated and committed oncologists around the world who are now better prepared to face their challenges and make the necessary changes in their countries or regions. ASCO has many roles in global oncology, and the IDEA is building skilled practitioners to make the cancer world better.

Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, MD, FACP, FASCO, is a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology in the Division of Cancer Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (UTMDACC). Additionally, he is the Chair of the SWOG Breast Cancer Committee, a member of ASCO’s Breast Cancer Consensus Panel, and Chair of the Global Oncology Leadership Task Force. Dr. Hortobagyi is a member of the Conquer Cancer Foundation’s Board of Directors, where he serves as Treasurer. He served as President of ASCO from 2006-2007.

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