Mentoring Through Merit: Experienced Doctors Support Rising Researchers and Information Sharing

Sep 10, 2018

How effective is a promising new cancer treatment if it can’t be shared with everyone who cares for patients?

The Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Merit Awards honor the highest quality research by early-career oncology investigators. Merit Award recipients are invited to present their research at ASCO scientific meetings, including the ASCO Annual Meeting and other co-sponsored symposia, allowing oncology professionals from around the world to get a firsthand experience with the most up-to-date advances in cancer prevention and treatment.

ASCO members are recognizing the value in this award and honoring a commitment to educating the cancer community by investing time and resources in promoting the work and professional development of early-career oncologists. Since 2017, five ASCO members have endowed seven such awards.

Rachna T. Shroff, MD, MS, is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology and Oncology, and chief of the section of GI Medical Oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. With her husband, Dr. Puneet Shroff, she recently endowed a Conquer Cancer Merit Award.

The 2018 Drs. Rachna and Puneet Shroff Endowed Merit Award recipient is Alberto Puccini, MD, of USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Keck School of Medicine, for his research on the comprehensive genomic profiling of 724 gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.

A former Conquer Cancer grant recipient herself, Dr. Shroff shares the motivation behind her family’s generosity.

How important is it for cancer professionals to have access to the most current research?

RS: Cancer care is evolving at a lightning pace and staying abreast of the most up-to-date research is vital for oncologists to provide effective, safe, and compassionate care to our patients. As a clinical investigator, it is the fact that this field is rapidly progressing that motivates me to push harder to improve treatment options for our patients. Every cancer professional has this same shared goal, and thus the same drive to access updates in cancer research in a real-time fashion.

Describe the feeling of meeting the researchers you’re supporting and learning about their work.

RS: There is nothing more inspiring than supporting the next generation of cancer researchers. These investigators are the future of cancer care and are the ones who are pushing the envelope and thinking outside of the box. It was wonderful to see our contribution to Conquer Cancer up close and personal by meeting the recipient of our endowed Merit Award, Dr. Alberto Puccini. His passion and enthusiasm were palpable and the work he is doing will certainly move the needle forward for neuroendocrine cancers. Knowing that our support is translating into real progress in the here and now is why we are so grateful to be able to help bright young investigators.

What inspired you to endow a Merit Award?

RS: As a prior recipient of the Conquer Cancer Young Investigator Award (YIA) and multiple Merit Awards, I am keenly aware of the impact that Conquer Cancer grants and awards can have on shaping early careers. It was my YIA that helped me carve out an interest in pancreaticobiliary cancer and supported my early interests in biomarker-driven research. Knowing that Conquer Cancer is here to support young minds, it was an obvious choice for my husband and I to decide to endow a Merit Award. We want to ensure that early-career investigators and trainees who have an interest in gastrointestinal cancers have the ability to attend ASCO [meetings] and to shine a spotlight on their work, just as I had. We are delighted to leave a legacy within such an important organization.

To learn more about all grants and awards supported by Conquer Cancer, visit CONQUER.ORG.

ASCO Members Who Have Endowed Merit Awards in 2018

  • Frances A. Shepherd, MD, FASCO
  • Stephen A. Sherwin, MD
  • Dr. Kathleen Pritchard Medicine Professional Corporation
  • Drs. Rachna and Puneet Shroff
  • Dr. and Mrs. Douglas W. Blayney

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