By Krisha Howell, MD; Shauna Campbell, DO; Jessica Schuster, MD; and ASTRO President Laura Dawson, MD, FASTRO
ASTRO is pleased to announce the launch in the fall of a new community, ASTRO’s Gender Equity, on the ROhub.
As part of the message of the 62nd Annual Meeting, Global Oncology: Radiation Therapy in a Changing World, we realize many of the physical and ideological barriers once separating people in health care and in the workplace — geography, language, culture, time zones — have been diminished in part due to technology.1 ASTRO recognizes, however, that despite these technological advances, there are striking disparities which manifest throughout time and virtual space. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted structural inequities in health care, with disparities in people marginalized by race, age, socioeconomic status and gender becoming more apparent and inhibiting the collective goals of our field. Among them, diverse challenges exist unique to women in health care and individuals stymied by gender stereotyping. During the pandemic, women and health care workers with caregiving responsibilities are having increasing domestic demands. Already, a widening gender gap in academic productivity during the pandemic is being seen.2
In surveying the future landscape of radiation oncology, ASTRO Chair Thomas Eichler, MD, FASTRO, acknowledged in 2019 that the greatest asset to our field is our members.1 This remains true in 2020. It is through our members that the ASTRO Gender Equity Community seeks to connect, provide resources and offer a platform for women and others interested in gender equity to exchange ideas within the field of radiation oncology.
The Gender Equity Community was conceived with the recognition that a smaller percentage of female medical students are choosing radiation oncology as their preferred career. Additionally, a paucity of radiation oncology leadership positions are currently occupied by women. The objective of the Gender Equity Community on the ROhub is to designate this space as a resource for ASTRO members to safely pose questions, raise concerns and foster support to achieve the above goals. We hope it will also provide an opportunity for networking and mentorship.
Within the first week of its rollout, the forum engaged in discussion about the persistently low matriculation of female medical students selecting radiation oncology and the need to have women in leadership roles to help address this disparity. Female leaders are needed to not only mentor medical students but also to guide other females into leadership roles. Other apt discussion topics opened on the forum at this time include sharing individual stories and improving ASTRO member gender demographic data.
We are thrilled to have this virtual space to provide constructive discussion of these and related issues for a positive contribution to our physicians’ careers and wellness.
We are planning many discussions and will be writing monthly blog posts and posing questions both here on the blog and in the ROhub community.
Join us on the ROhub and answer: How can the ROhub Gender Equity community best work for you as a forum to facilitate discussion, disseminate resources and enable networking?
How to Participate:
The Gender Equity Community welcomes all ASTRO members. To enroll, a member can go to the ROhub on the ASTRO website at rohub.astro.org:
- Sign in at the top right corner button.
- From there, a menu will appear under the header space.
- Second from the left is “Communities.”
- Select “All Communities” to see all communities open to you or in which you are currently enrolled. Communities are organized alphabetically.
- Scroll to “Gender Equity Network/Community.”
- At the far right of the row is a blue button that can be selected to “Join.”
Operational details are as follows:
Enrolled members may post and read the other posts within the community. Prior to posting, the submitted comment will be reviewed by a moderator to ensure our Society’s professionalism is maintained and to confirm that no parties would individually be harmed by anything posted within the community. Submitted comments will be posted within 24 to 48 hours of submission.
1. Eichler TJ. Join us in 2020 for ASTRO’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Miami Beach. ASTRO Daily News. 2019;2;Sept 15-16:16.
2. Andersen JP, Nielsen MW, Simone NL, et al. Covid-19 medical papers have fewer women first authors than expected. ELife. 2020;9:e58807.
This article originally appeared in ASTRO Daily News, a publication of the ASTRO Annual Meeting.
By Diane Kean, ASTRO Communications Manager
ASTRO Member-in-Training Mutlay Sayan, MD, was recently recognized as a 2020 STAT Wunderkind. Nominated by his mentor, Salma Jabbour, MD, Dr. Sayan was selected among thousands of nominees to join the honored group of “the most impressive doctors and researchers on the cusp of launching their careers, but not yet fully independent.” ASTRO recently sat down with Dr. Sayan and Dr. Jabbour to learn more about Dr. Sayan’s research, their mentorship and what lies ahead.
Dr. Sayan spent the first 11 years of his life on a family farm in a small village in Turkey, having no formal education and not knowing how to read or write. His father’s sudden cancer diagnosis launched the family to a new life in Istanbul, where all members of the family, including Dr. Sayan and siblings, worked in a factory to support their father’s cancer treatments. Persistence drove Dr. Sayan to fight for a position at the local school, where, at the age of 13, he began his formal education. As Dr. Jabbour stated in her nomination letter, “Dr. Sayan’s life and career demonstrate his commitment to taking maximum advantage of the opportunities that have been granted to him.” Fast forward 20 years and Dr. Sayan is now in his last year of residency in radiation oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
“After witnessing my father’s illness and premature death, it became my ambition to treat cancer,” said Dr. Sayan. “It was his treatment that first introduced me to radiation therapy. I was impressed by the opportunity that radiation afforded to personalize treatment for each patient.”
Dr. Sayan earned his BA and MD degrees at the University of Vermont, where he also began his research career. “There’s no greater evidence of Dr. Sayan’s commitment than in his devotion to research,” stated Dr. Jabbour in her nomination. Dr. Sayan has written and completed a clinical trial evaluating predictors of chronic fatigue in patients treated with partial brain radiation; results will emerge later this year after the last set of patient evaluations. Dr. Sayan also helped write and conduct a clinical trial of partial breast irradiation at the University of Vermont, which resulted in two important publications where Dr. Sayan is the first author.
Also, Dr. Sayan has worked with his department chair and 2020 Gold Medal recipient Bruce Haffty, MD, FASTRO, examining the acute cardiotoxicity in HER2-positive breast cancer patients treated with concurrent adjuvant hypofractionated radiation therapy and trastuzumab. The study findings demonstrate that the rate of acute cardiotoxicity in patients receiving concurrent trastuzumab and hypofractionated radiation therapy was low and was similar to the rate observed in patients receiving conventional radiation therapy. This study is important in that it clarified the safety of binding trastuzumab with adjuvant hypofractionated radiation therapy, previously a common concern for patients and oncologists.
Demonstrating his commitment to global health, Dr. Sayan is currently conducting research that examines Syrian refugees’ access to cancer therapy in Turkey. He received a grant from the ARRO-ASTRO Global Health Scholar Program for this project and spent two months in summer 2019 at the border between Turkey and Syria to collect the data.
Looking to future research endeavors, Dr. Sayan said, “While I have substantial experience with retrospective data and large databases, I envision that the next step in my career will be to advance my clinical skills through a variety of new modalities and technologies, as well as to embark on large prospective research and clinical trials. I also plan to continue pursuing research topics that incorporate quality of life outcomes.”
The value of mentorship cannot be underestimated. Dr. Jabbour and Dr. Sayan agreed that they have found the mentor-mentee relationship to provide academic fulfillment as well as friendship. They elaborated on how the mentor’s appreciation for the enthusiasm and potential of the mentee and the mentor’s guidance and support ultimately shape the trajectory of the mentee’s career. With shared goals and collaboration, the mentee benefits by improved productivity, clinical skills, medical knowledge and career preparation, for example, and both individuals benefit from the energy of this special relationship.
The STAT Wunderkinds award is sponsored by STAT News, produced by Boston Globe Media. STAT Wunderkinds are selected as the elite among the next generation of scientific leaders and include postdocs, residents and young scientists who are undertaking groundbreaking work and, as stated by STAT, “will be worth watching in the years to come.” Congratulations to Dr. Sayan! View the 2020 STAT Wunderkinds recipients.