ASTRO 2020 elections results
Congratulations to the following newly elected members of ASTRO’s Board of Directors and Nominating Committee. The new officer’s terms will begin on October 27, 2020, during the 2020 ASTRO Annual Meeting.
The ASTRO Board crafted our current strategic plan in 2017. Our intention was to create a document that incorporates ASTRO’s fundamental mission and values, and provides a strategy to guide our society in an ever changing healthcare landscape.
The purpose, core values, and goals expressed in the plan resonate with my motivation to enter the field of radiation oncology, and guide my approach to leadership on the ASTRO Board.
The purpose of ASTRO is to advance the field of radiation oncology. This essential mission benefits our patients and our specialty. “Advancing the field” is a broad imperative which includes consistent progress in research and education as well as responding to new opportunities and challenges. As a Board member, I can attest that ASTRO has continued to develop in multiple arenas to advance clinical care, promote research to transform oncology treatment, educate our members and the public, advocate and engage in health policy, and raise the profile of our field in public perception and the house of medicine.
The core values of ASTRO are excellence in patient care, improved outcomes, innovation, integrity and diversity and inclusion. We cannot go wrong by “always putting the patient first,” whether in our clinic, science, or advocacy. Our profession is the poster child for technologic innovation. We support continued research and outcome studies to transform oncology care for our patients. We continue to promote diversity and inclusion as a core value of our society. Our leadership should reflect our membership; our membership should represent the patients we serve. And finally, our integrity as physicians is measured by our commitment to our patients.
I have had the opportunity to serve on ASTRO’s Board for several years. While our specific goals change in response to the ever changing domains of medicine and society, our core values do not change and continue to inspire me.
We are now in the midst of a global pandemic with an uncertain course. We have experienced unprecedented societal and economic changes in the last few months that will affect the practice of medicine in ways we cannot predict. ASTRO is taking up this challenge, and has joined the dialogue to share information with our members about practice in the coronavirus era. We have transitioned our 2020 Annual ASTRO meeting from a live meeting to an immersive and interactive virtual meeting and expect that our innovative approach will set a new standard for virtual specialty meetings.
I anticipate that we will be tested to demonstrate the value of ASTRO to our membership and the value of radiation oncology as a medical specialty. I am confident we will accomplish this by adhering to our mission and core values. If elected to an ASTRO leadership position I will hold fast to our values while continuing to advance the field of radiation oncology.
SERVICE TO ASTRO
SERVICE TO OTHER ONCOLOGY OR RADIOLOGY ORGANIZATIONS
After graduating from college, I traveled and worked in Europe and Asia before attending medical school. During my third-year clinical rotations, I learned about radiation oncology and knew that was the field for me.
I have practiced radiation oncology in rural and urban settings, and in academic medical centers. It became apparent to me that many external factors impact the practice of medicine and I obtained an MPH, which provided a valuable perspective on these issues. I reentered academic medicine at the University of Iowa in 2002, where I focused on image guided radiation for breast and gynecologic cancer. As my administrative tasks increased, I realized I needed education in finance and management and obtained an MBA. I came to Morgantown in 2012 as founding Chair of a new Department of Radiation Oncology. This has been a rewarding endeavor and has given me insight into the challenges facing rural practices.
My ASTRO volunteer activity dates to 2004 when I answered a call to attend ASTRO’s first Advocacy Day. This led to progressive involvement in government relations activities and other opportunities to serve ASTRO, including my previous role as Chair of the Government Relations Council and my current position of Secretary /Treasurer on the Board of Directors. I am continually impressed by the dedication and expertise of ASTRO staff and volunteers and feel honored to be a member of this organization.
As an organization, key values for ASTRO are excellence in patient care and service-oriented innovation, values that are aligned with my own. I have seen these values translated into action in serving in leadership roles within ASTRO. I’ve watched the development of clinical guidelines. I’ve seen the growth and success of the accreditation program. I have been involved in the development of the Radiation Oncology Incident Learning System: RO-ILS which ASTRO sponsors and manages, and I have helped organize the excellent science that goes into the Annual Meeting. As a Board Member I would hope to see ASTRO continue to support these strong programs and look toward the challenges ahead. In the near-term, one major challenge is the global COVID-19 pandemic. ASTRO has a role to play in this context by helping practices navigate the many challenges of providing quality care for cancer patients during the pandemic. ASTRO will also have a role in the year(s) ahead as the healthcare system experiences the inevitable aftershocks. It is a challenging situation and all of it is compounded on a trend that was already underway towards value-based care. In this context the organization should continue to advocate for the discipline and to help set the foundations for the future. This includes providing thoughtful guidance around clinical and policy matters. It also includes concrete steps like developing thoughtful quality metrics that will ensure not only financial health but also the continued quality and safety of care for patients. In the years ahead the profession will face many challenges. There is little doubt of that. I believe that successfully navigating this will require an increased focus on the key values of excellence in patient care and innovation. As clinical providers and as an organization we need to remember these and translate them into action.
SERVICE TO ASTRO
Dr. Eric Ford is Professor, Interim Director and Vice Chair of Physics at University of Washington in Seattle. His areas of expertise are quality and safety, laboratory technology for experimental radiobiology, and global oncology. He has over 140 publications, four books and has been PI of multiple federal grants. Within ASTRO he has been involved in the development of the RO-ILS: Radiation Oncology Incident Learning System since its inception in 2014. He has chaired the ASTRO Multidisciplinary Subcommittee on Quality Assurance and is now Chair of the ASTRO Clinical Affairs and Quality Council. This year he is director for the Patient Safety Track of the annual meeting. Dr. Ford is a valued mentor to students and residents and has been recognized with multiple teaching awards. At home, he and his wife attempt to keep up with their twin boys.
As ASTRO Education Council Vice-chair, I envision my role as one devoted to furthering ASTRO’s Strategic Plan by perpetuating, evolving and creating educational opportunities that meet the changing needs of the ASTRO community. ASTRO’s core purpose is to advance the field of radiation oncology and its ten-year vision of the field places radiation oncology as the recognized leader in quality, innovation and value in multidisciplinary care. To lead the field of oncology, ASTRO’s membership must have an expansive knowledge base in both clinical care and research. For the Annual Meeting to be the preferred venue for cutting-edge research presentations, radiation oncologists must have the skill set and infrastructure to conduct and disseminate this research. Some of these skills will be acquired before and during residency, but more will be needed for aspiring radiation researchers to successfully conduct funded research. Currently, grant development education is consistently available through ASCO and RSNA, but training on the design of radiation-specific trials may be a consideration for ASTRO. Interfacing with NCI and CTEP with development of the requisite skill set and visibility to hold steering committee positions will be key in advancing the field of radiation oncology. Continued close collaboration between ASTRO and the American Board of Radiology (ABR) and the Residency Review Committee (RRC) will be key in tailoring learning requirements and benchmarks with the need for not only clinical skills, but research skills. In addition, quality, safety and health outcomes research as well as cost containment strategies need educational support both during and after training. Scientific and clinical data must be exchanged in a timely, learner-specific method to meet the individual needs of the society in an era where travel and financial resources may be more limited. This can certainly continue through the annual and disease-site meetings but must extend beyond in person attendance to consider virtual venues as well as other formats for exchanging educational content. As information expands, particularly relative to personalized/precision medicine, these principles will need to be disseminated to a diverse ASTRO learning community, many of whom had little exposure to these contemporary fundamentals during residency. Sharing of this knowledge with other specialties, as well as the value of radiation, will also be needed for the House of Medicine to appreciate the pivotal contributions of radiation oncology. Continued engagement of clinicians and researchers from other specialties at the annual and disease specific meetings will be important in solidifying the important role of radiation and its interplay with other treatment modalities as well as its importance in cancer susceptibility and resistance. ASTRO will need robust committee support to succeed in these visions and efforts. Educational content will need to come from many sources as will the methods to measure and document successful learning. It will be important for these committees to be strategically populated and efficiently run to keep pace with the scope and dissemination of knowledge needed by the membership. I look forward to collaborating with ASTRO leadership, staff and other committee volunteers to move the strategic plan from a vision to reality.
SERVICE TO OTHER ONCOLOGY OR RADIOLOGY ORGANIZATIONS
Dr. Beth Erickson is tenured professor and full-time faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Department of Radiation Oncology. She focuses on the treatment of patients with gastrointestinal, gynecologic, and eye/orbital cancers and is Chief of Brachytherapy Services. She has written and spoken nationally and internationally on the treatment of gynecologic and gastrointestinal malignancies, with a special interest in image-based treatment planning, both for external-beam and brachytherapy. She has been active internationally with GEC ESTO and served on the ICRU-89 committee. She has been very active in the American Brachytherapy Society leadership, as well as faculty for the ABS GYN Brachytherapy School since its inception in 1995. She was honored with the Henschke Award in 2014. She serves as Gyn section head editor for the “Journal of Brachytherapy International”. Dr. Erickson served as Vice-Chair of the Cervix Committee for the Patterns of Care/QRRO studies and as Chair of the ACR Practice Guidelines for the performance of high-dose rate and low-dose rate brachytherapy. She served on the NRG Cervix Committee and has also been active in RSNA on the Oncologic Imaging and Therapies Task Force. She is a former board examiner and trustee of the American Board of Radiology and also served on the Residency Review Committee for Radiation Oncology. She has been very active in ASTRO with teaching activities including multiple refresher and Gyn e-contouring courses and panels, as well as serving on numerous ASTRO committees. She was named Medical College of Wisconsin Alumnus of the Year in 2019.
ASTRO’s Strategic Plan lays the foundation for transformational change in our field. As oncology care continues to catapult forward at a breakneck pace ASTRO, and its leadership, must be positioned to foster the continued evolution of radiation oncology with an eye towards innovation and precision medicine. In elevating the profile of our field, future leaders of our organization must be both capable and empowered to leverage the membership and ASTRO’s resources to ensure appropriate support of research and innovation, strengthening the reputation and participation of radiation oncologists in oncologic advancement.
Understanding that the needs of the constituency are broad, as a member of ASTRO leadership and the Government Relations Council, I would commit to allowing those who serve in our specialty to thrive in the context of increasing demands for value-based care delivery. The RO-APM signifies a seed change in our traditional FFS care delivery models and the ASTRO Board and its Government Relations Council Representatives must adeptly navigate the sometimes competing needs of the constituency with these inevitable changes in policy. Through continued engagement of our Government Relations leaders and a lasting commitment to allocation of resources to staffing and promotion of the PAC, ASTRO will continue to influence key decisions with government agencies and policy stakeholders. These efforts must be combined with meaningful member engagement in policy development and in fully understanding the benefits of advocacy in our field.
Ultimately, by serving the needs of our members, we serve the needs of our patients. ASTRO must be empowered to continue to lead on issues such as access to care, minimizing the untoward burden of prior authorizations, and ensuring the funding of high-level outcomes based research to advance our specialty. In the coming years, I feel there will be opportunities for ASTRO to inform policy development to further enhance the utilization of telemedicine as a means of improving both access and quality of care. In my 15 years as an engaged ASTRO member I’ve witnessed a clear trajectory of success on these and other fronts and I believe ASTRO is poised to continue to elevate the role of the radiation oncologist as a leader within the cancer care team.
Looking forward, I see opportunities to continue to elevate our field by further integration and continued adaptation of ASTRO’s current quality initiatives and platforms. One such opportunity to increase the value of care we provide may lie in aligning the sometimes discrepant quality assurance and peer review programs between academic and community centers, especially in the context of solo or rural practices. As a radiation oncologist who practices at an APEx accredited community-based facility and who serves on the APEx Committee, I understand the inherent value of these programs and believe that facilitating broader dissemination of these initiatives will elevate the specialty from the perspective of payers, policy makers, oncologists and patients.
It is my honor to be nominated to the Government Relations Council and I look forward to fostering the advancement of both the organization and the specialty.
Gopal K. Bajaj, MD, MBA
SERVICE TO OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
As an applicant for a seat on the ASTRO Nominating Committee, I find myself humbled by the incredible team of physicians, staff, healthcare professionals, and leaders that make up our ASTRO community. I recognize that regardless of whether the Committee is focused on leading innovation, changing culture, enhancing staff and faculty well-being, increasing patient access to care, fostering collaborations, or cultivating ground-breaking research, my role on the ASTRO Nominating Committee would be to focus on fostering and maximizing the talents of others. I am keenly aware of the Committee’s special role – to identify and advance emerging leaders in our field. Now, more than ever, as we plan our recovery and reimagination of radiation oncology in the post-COVID period, innovation, research, health care policy, and above all, education and clinical care, will mark the advent of a new era for our field. The challenges we face will be best tackled if we lead the charge rather than follow: We must lead efforts to address the rising cost of health care and align stakeholders to provide high quality of care through innovative models; we must tackle the risks of widening disparities of care; we must embrace innovative avenues, from artificial intelligence to cutting edge technologies; and we must maintain our dedication to mentorship, education, and clinical care at the forefront of all of our endeavors.
As I work with our early-career faculty, trainees and students, I see passionate and compassionate caregivers who, as caretakers of patients facing frightening, daunting, overwhelming diagnoses, attend to each patient’s and family’s unique needs. I see innovators who have the vision to ensure that our field of radiation oncology continues to enhance our ability to mold treatment to each patient’s individual tumor—advancements from physics will improve radiation oncology precision, insights from biology will target genetic and genomic landscapes, and our clinical talent will integrate these perspectives for the betterment of our patients’ outcomes. I see future radiation oncology leaders who have the mental flexibility to represent our diverse opinions and backgrounds to government agencies, policy stakeholders, advocacy organizations, the media and the public at large. Finally, I see an entire community in radiation oncology, that possesses the selflessness and determination to mentor the next generation of professionals in our field who represent all disciplines and sectors of our membership.
The opportunity and privilege of serving on the ASTRO Nominating Committee will enable me to contribute to ASTRO’s mission by assisting in the selection of leaders with the qualities outlined above to represent the entire ASTRO membership. Our future ASTRO leaders will continue to lead by example—as models of collaboration, innovation, vision, inclusiveness, transparency, integrity and generous empathy.
Dr. Haas-Kogan received her medical degree from UCSF in 1991. She completed her residency in radiation oncology at UCSF and spent 18 years as a radiation oncologist, researcher and academic leader there before becoming Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital in 2015. She was recently selected for the Radiation Oncology Professorship at Harvard Medical School (HMS), the highest honor HMS confers on its faculty; this professorship pays tribute to her lifelong commitment to the field of radiation oncology.
Throughout her career Dr. Haas-Kogan has been enthusiastically committed to teaching and mentorship. In college she received the prestigious Joseph L. Barrett Award for Teaching at Harvard University. At UCSF she received the Henry J. Kaiser Award for Excellence in Teaching and her dedication to education and mentorship continued as she served as the Educational Program Director and Vice-chair for Research and Education at UCSF.
Dr. Haas-Kogan’s active laboratory-based research program investigates novel therapeutic agents for the treatment brain tumors. She is a widely published author, and has received accolades for excellence in teaching and exceptional care delivery. Dr. Haas-Kogan has been repeatedly named to Best Doctors in America. She represents the radiation oncology community on many national and international fronts through her leadership positions within the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the National Cancer Institute, American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO), Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) the Moonshot Initiative Blue Ribbon Panel and most recently, the National Academy of Medicine.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of my career in radiation oncology has been the opportunity to educate. We have all experienced patients who come to us knowing something about their diagnosis, but maybe not quite enough to understand the therapeutic options and the goals of treatment. It has been a privilege to be the person who helps to put it all together for patients so that when they leave the office, they leave with more understanding, and perhaps with a little more hope. Communication and education are also vital within an organization like ASTRO, both in helping us to improve the care we all provide, and in keeping the field of radiation oncology on the radar of those who make policy.
ASTRO’s core purpose is the advancement of radiation 0ncology, with a long-term vision of elevating the awareness and value of the field. Over the last decade in particular, the leaders of our organization have helped advance our field—which was already data-driven and safety-conscious—to a new level of safe, quality-based, cutting edge cancer care. But with every innovation come new challenges, and the continued need to communicate and educate. To continue this trajectory, ASTRO will need future leaders who can drive innovation in technology, physician training, critical thinking and scientific excellence, and who can educate government policymakers about the needs of cancer patients and the changes in cancer care.
I would like to serve on ASTRO’s Nominating Committee to help identify these leaders. As a member of the Nominating Committee, I will bring my own experience as President of my private-practice group and former Chair of a hospital-based Radiation Oncology Department to help select individuals to continue to drive our field forward. My participation in various search committees has allowed me to meet and evaluate professionals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Thirty years in this field have provided the network necessary to identify those who will become the future leaders of ASTRO. I look forward to the opportunity to serve ASTRO and help to bring new voices to the table. Thank you for your consideration.
During medical school, I had the opportunity to spend a summer working at the New England Medical Center Radiation Oncology Department. I was looking for a summer job in oncology, but did not know anything about radiation oncology. By the end of the summer, I knew I had found the field of medicine for me. Following residency at the Joint Center for Radiation Therapy, I worked for a brief time at Duke University, and then returned to the Joint Center where I worked at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute for 5 years. I had an opportunity to go into private practice, and for the last 20 years I have worked in northern Virginia as a member of Radiation Oncology Associates. Our group provides radiation oncology services at five hospital-based locations, with our main center at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute providing state of the art treatment options, including protons and brachytherapy. I have served as Chair of this department, and continue to serve as president of ROA. While over my career I have treated every variety of cancer, in recent years I have specialized in breast and gynecologic cancers. My goal for each patient I see is to help them have a better understanding of their disease and treatment options. My husband and I live in northern Virginia where we raised our three children.
I have a very multi-disciplinary research background that is firmly rooted in the study of radiotherapy and cancer treatment. Therefore, the ongoing ASTRO emphasis on fueling innovative research practices and training of young members in the society plays particularly well into my ability to make new connections with other specialty societies to reach a place where radiation oncology is an equal partner in cancer research and treatment. The strategic plan has a stated emphasis on raising awareness for multi-disciplinary treatment practices and the goal of raising radiation oncology to an equal partner in the cancer treatment field. These goals are the same as mine as a radiation biologist when I work with a group of translationally minded medical oncologists, physicists and radiation oncologists. Thus, I am inspired to find and support next generations of leaders that can be adept in both our specialty and the important connections that radiotherapy has to many other disciplines in oncology. This is particularly important as more and more evidence emerges that, instead of a stand-alone intervention, radiation therapy can be used as an integrated part of effective combination approaches with other therapeutic agents such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Robert J. Griffin, PhD, is a Professor of radiation and cancer biology in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences with over 20 years of experience in NIH and NSF funded radiation biology research. Much of his work has been studying the interactions of normal and tumor microvasculature with therapy response, blood flow, hypoxia and the general role of the tumor microenvironment in driving metabolism and proliferation. Exploiting aspects of the tumor microenvironment to improve response to radiation, thermal treatment, or chemotherapy while maintaining a beneficial therapeutic ratio is the ultimate goal of studies in his research group. He has acted as President and Program Chair for the Society for Thermal Medicine, which has an emphasis on nanotechnology and radiosensitization using a variety of modalities. He has been active on the program committee for the ASTRO Refresher Course (Biology Co-chair) and the Radiation Research Society as well as on the Annual Meeting and Scientific and Educational Program Development Committees for ASTRO. Currently, he is also Associate Senior Editor for Biology for the Red Journal, as well as Radiation Therapy Section Editor for the journal, Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment.