By Andrea Ng, MD, MPH, Chair, Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee, and Christina Tsien, MD, Chair, Annual Meeting Education Committee
Words matter. As research has indicated and has been highlighted in a recent ASTRO Blog, it is important to use professional introductions, correct pronunciations of names and correct use of pronouns as well as respectful language around patients when presenting research at meetings. In an effort to improve the practice of using respectful language regarding patients and colleagues, the ASTRO Annual Meeting Steering Committee, in collaboration with the Committee on Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, developed Culture of Respect guidelines for presenters at the Annual Meeting.
The guidelines provide examples of appropriate and inappropriate language presenters and moderators can use to prepare presentations. We encourage all ASTRO members to review the Culture of Respect guidelines below and adhere to them when preparing presentations for the Annual Meeting and to continue to use them for all ASTRO meetings. In addition, these guidelines can help you think about the words you use when speaking with patients and their families. The guidelines can also be found under the Speaker Resources section of the Annual Meeting website.
Building a Culture of Respect at the ASTRO Annual Meeting: Language is Action
Historically, health care language has not consistently been centered on patient sensitivity. Insensitive health care language can have the inadvertent consequence of alienating and dehumanizing patients. It is increasingly recognized that “words matter” and can shape and reflect our behavior, and appropriate language is imperative to ensure that our patients and their families are treated with respect and dignity. Adopting language of respect extends also to the treatment of our colleagues. Recent studies have uncovered inconsistencies in the use of formal titles in the introduction of speakers at national and international conferences.
With an expanding audience due to increasing use of virtual technology and social media, and in order to foster a respectful, inclusive and bias-free culture, ASTRO and its 2021 President pledge to raise awareness, provide guidance and standardize appropriate language use at the ASTRO Annual Meeting. As such, the following directives, which will be continually evaluated, updated and modified, have been developed for participants of the ASTRO Annual Meeting during all ASTRO sessions and presentations:
- When describing research findings, or presenting the case of a patient, avoid language that:
(i) Imply patients are responsible for their condition or outcome
- Instead of: “20% of patients failed treatment”
Appropriate language: “20% of patients had tumors that did not respond to treatment”
Instead of: “20% of patients progressed”
Appropriate language: “The tumors progressed in 20% of patients”
- Dehumanize patients
- Instead of: “A 42 year-old paraplegic”
Appropriate language: “A 42 year-old patient with paraplegia”
- Stigmatize patients
- Instead of: “Substance abuser”
Appropriate language: “Patient with a history of substance use disorder”
- When introducing or addressing speakers:
- Speakers who have a doctoral degree (e.g., MD, PhD, ScD, DMD, PharmD) should be introduced and addressed as Dr. Full Name or Dr. Last Name.
- All other speakers should be introduced as Mr./Ms./Mx. Full Name or Mr./Ms./Mx. Last Name
- Formal titles should be used throughout the entire session, including Q&A, in a consistent manner, regardless of the level of familiarity with each other
- Whenever possible, we strongly encourage session, panel or workshop chairs, moderators and all other speakers, to confirm ahead of time the correct pronunciation of the speakers’ names and their gender pronouns. Visit https://www.mypronouns.org/how for more information on pronouns.
ASTRO Leadership greatly appreciates the valuable contributions from all ASTRO Annual Meeting Faculty members, and their commitment to support a culture of respectful, collegial and inclusive interactions.
Posted: September 7, 2021
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By Laura A. Dawson, MD, FASTRO, ASTRO President
I’d like to continue to share insights with you about ASTRO 2021. Today, I’ll be focusing on the Presidential Symposium. The theme is Advancing Person-Centered Care Through Innovation — innovating for clinically meaningful benefits that matter to patients. While this is innate in what we do, we sometimes don’t aim high enough or consider the patient perspective as well as we should. Let’s ask patients what matters to them.
The symposium will open on Sunday, October 24, with an introduction by me to be followed by Dr. Shekinah Elmore, who will eloquently discuss innovating with compassion. Then the session “Harnessing Scientific Innovation to Improve Person-Centered Care,” moderated by Dr. Curtiland Deville and Dr. Kristy Brock, will have a cast of world-class speakers discussing artificial intelligence, innovations in radiation delivery and imaging, ultra-high dose rate/FLASH, advanced imaging for bioadaptive radiotherapy, patient-centered radiopharmaceutical therapy and personalizing radiation therapy using molecular biomarkers. A patient advocate will help us put these inspiring talks in context.
The second session focuses on how digital health improves patient outcomes and experiences. We’ll hear from human factors engineer, Dr. Jen Horonjeff who will talk about patients and crowdsourcing. Next, Dr. Debra Schrag, a medical oncologist leader in patient reported outcomes and measurements will discuss PROMs and PREMs as the true north — why/when/how. Dr. Edmondo Robinson will discuss reducing disparities with digital innovations. Then, Dr. Ale Berlin will highlight how he helped move in-person health visits to digital health visits at a large cancer center over just a few weeks in response to COVID-19. A panel will follow, discussing how to make user-friendly changes quickly and how to innovate equitably, using advances in digital health. Dr. Nitin Ohri will share how he’s implemented wearables (e.g., Fitbits) in the radiation oncology clinic. How can we use these tools to improve patient experiences and outcomes?
Session three asks what are some of the potential future applications of radiation therapy that may expand the role of radiation therapy and improve patient outcomes? Radiation replacing surgery, for example for liver cancer — while we aren’t there yet, there is potential. Dr. Jinsil Seong will delve into this topic. This session will keep us thinking. How can we use radiation therapy in new settings with the goal of cure? How do we get there? A talk by Dr. Chandan Guha will discuss innovative targeting of the immune system and microenvironment, for example using radiation as a vaccine. Dr. David Palma will look into the future of oligometastases SBRT, beyond three, 10 and even more metastases. In another talk, Dr. Stuart Burri will challenge us to rethink pre-operative radiation therapy. Dr. Yaacov Lawrence will share how to treat the celiac plexus with SBRT to improve cancer pain. Again, a patient advocate will provide their important perspective.
The final session will be entertaining and educational. How do we best obtain evidence for new applications of radiation therapy? Traditionally we’ve use randomized clinical trials. Can trials be more efficient and equitable? Can we learn from clinical real-world data that is searchable and inclusive of patients who are not eligible for trials? A lively debate on randomized clinical trials versus real world data will be moderated by Dr. Sue Yom and Dr. Gita Suneja. Four speakers will offer points/counterpoints for randomized clinical trials versus real world data, and Jill Feldman, a lung cancer patient advocate and survivor, will provide her thoughts on this challenging topic. This will be an engaging and interesting opportunity for audience input.
The Presidential Symposium will highlight exciting advances in radiation technologies and teams who can successfully deliver high-precision treatment, keeping the goal on where we want to be and what outcomes matter to patients. Let’s elevate our specialty beyond delivery of high-tech treatment together to advance person-centered care. I hope this provides you with some sessions to look forward to during the Presidential Symposium. If you aren’t yet registered, I encourage you to learn more and make plans now to join us in person or virtually for the Annual Meeting. The Presidential Symposium will be available as part of the Digital XP programming. If there are other topics you’d like to learn more about, I invite you to drop me a note.
Learn more about ASTRO 2021 from my first blog: Embracing Change: Advancing Person-Centered Care at ASTRO 2021
Posted: August 10, 2021
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By Laura A. Dawson, MD, FASTRO, ASTRO President
Not only am I embracing change, but I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone as I write my first blog post about ASTRO 2021, our Annual Meeting. I was so pleased to announce on July 8 that registration and housing have opened. We’re back in person in Chicago, and I can’t wait to see you there, as we start to step out of our “COVID hibernation.” If you’re unable to travel to the meeting, we’ve added a virtual option called Digital XP. And we’re also offering risk-free registration through September 30, so you can take advantage of early-bird registration rates (see registration fees and policies on the meeting website for more information). I encourage you to learn more about the meeting and make plans to participate!
Today, I’m excited to share my personal thoughts with you about the Annual Meeting and the meeting themes of “person-centered care” and “embracing change.” I will start with person-centered care, which focuses on the whole person as a unique individual, beyond their cancer diagnosis. Patients are someone’s child, friend, partner and/or parent. A person’s work and hobbies are often disrupted by a cancer diagnosis and treatment, and we are in a unique position to care for and support people during some of the most challenging times of their lives. Placing an individual at the center of their care, partnering with them and personalizing treatment based on a more holistic approach that incorporates various dimensions to well‐being, including a person's individual preferences and beliefs, is “person- centered.” This approach acknowledges physical and financial barriers to care and other determinants of health. It should lead to more compassionate care and trusting relationships with patients and their families and ultimately, can help to improve health care system efficiency and effectiveness for the whole community.
A special person-centered session at this year’s meeting will be The Science of Hope: Why and How to Approach the Most Difficult Situations in Oncology. It’s sure to be inspiring. Hope is important to patients; it’s appropriate, necessary and a critical component of quality care. In this session, we’ll cover why hope matters, the psychoneuroimmunologic basis of hope and finally, how to cultivate and sustain hope in clinical practice and in clinical trials.
No matter what scientific innovation is being discussed at the meeting, it should come back to a person-centered approach. Let’s aim high — for clinically important improvements in outcomes and experiences that matter to patients and their families. We also need to look after ourselves and have empathy for each other, as we have had different degrees of loss and burnout, especially during the past year and a half. Creating a more supportive, nimble work environment may allow us to be more accessible to patients, which should in turn improve the patient experience and outcomes, as well as caregiver satisfaction and wellness.
The second theme is embracing change. I picked this topic because I’d like to see us be more open to new ideas and different ways of thinking to help shape the future of radiation oncology. Let’s prioritize strategies to improve diversity in our field, which will help to improve person-centered care. Be open minded when someone suggests an idea that conflicts with your own inherent biases and thoughts. Let’s think of new ways to more efficiently demonstrate the benefits of radiation therapy innovations and applications, for example, with novel pragmatic trial design and/or new ways of producing evidence.
As we think about change and the profession, we can also think about new roles and new team members. Radiation oncology is a team involving physicists, radiation therapists, engineers, other oncologists, nurses, social workers, dieticians and other health care professionals. Radiation oncologists never work in isolation. As we implement new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI), all our roles will continue to evolve, and we must continue to advocate for clinically important advances. Who should be part of the team to ensure that such change occurs in an equitable manner, reducing disparities in access to treatment and cancer outcomes?
Computer scientists who are experts in machine learning and AI are playing an increasingly important role in radiation oncology, making them an obvious new team member to radiation oncology departments. One of our Keynote speakers, Dr. Fei-Fei Li, an expert in AI and computer vision, will share her views on the future of AI in health care as part of the Digital XP program (also available to all full conference registrants).
We also can learn from human factors engineers, implementation scientists, behavioral scientists and economists. I’m excited about Dr. Dan Ariely’s Keynote that will address why people do the things they do, which is a consideration in how to provide the best care for patients, how to successfully implement innovations and how to advocate for our specialty. His book, “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,” focuses on the behavioral research behind decision making. I expect to gain some great insights into behavior during this address.
Dr. Wendy Dean, a social scientist, will talk about the structure of medicine and how some structural changes have led to burnout and languishing during her Keynote address. We don’t usually have a social scientist on the stage, so this will be a treat. There’s so much that they and other scientists have to offer to the field. Let’s learn from them about how to improve person-centered care. Learn more about the three Keynote speakers.
I’ve provided some background and an overview of select sessions we have planned for ASTRO 2021. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about what you have to look forward to this year. In my next blog post, I will share more information about the Presidential Symposium. If there are other topics you’d like to learn more about, I invite you to drop me a note or even better, talk to me in person in Chicago!
Registration is open with many options to attend “your way!”
Posted: August 3, 2021
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Why the ASTRO Annual Meeting is more important, now, than ever
by Theodore DeWeese, MD, FASTRO, ASTRO Chair
ASTRO’s 2020 Annual Meeting theme, “Global Oncology: Radiation Therapy in a Changing World,” was chosen in mid-2019. Who could have imagined just how prescient the topic would be and how much the world would change since then?
This will be my 27th ASTRO Annual Meeting, and I am looking forward to it as much as I did, if not more, than my first year attending the meeting as a resident. I am especially enthusiastic about the immersive educational experiences the ASTRO staff and your professional colleagues have planned for you.
Last year in my Welcome Address article to our Chicago attendees, I wrote: “We all strive to transform science and improve care for patients on a daily basis, and the ability for our specialty to lead in these domains has never been greater. But, if we are to be highly successful, we cannot do these things in isolation.”
What a difference a year makes.
Who could have known that much of the world would be in isolation for a large portion of 2020? Yet, we have seen how reactive and responsive our field has been in this unprecedented time, which allowed us to quickly reengineer how we transform science and care for our patients. And our specialty’s ability to focus on patient health has truly never been greater, as we have seen through your unselfish and dedicated work caring for, and continuing treatment of, your patients during this public health emergency.
I went on to write that “working closely with our colleagues is important.” I would argue that this year it’s more important than ever. This year’s Annual Meeting will provide you with the opportunity to work closely, albeit virtually, with your colleagues from around the globe on the latest scientific advances. We already know that COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on cancer care for years to come, so the chance to learn from your peers in the global oncology community is especially important.
I also want to acknowledge and respond to all who have expressed your feelings about our pricing structure, both for members and residents. As Laura Thevenot shared in her blog post, the financial implications to a relatively small specialty association have been significant. Canceling the Miami meeting incurred tremendous costs. Our Annual Meeting is a primary revenue source for ASTRO and because we had to cancel the in-person meeting due to COVID-19 and the need to keep our communities safe, the organization absorbed the many monetary damages associated with canceling a city-wide annual meeting. The Board had to take extraordinary fiscal action inside ASTRO to keep our activities and member support services going. We know the Annual Meeting is the key educational activity of the year for many of our members and, thus, we as a Board decided to go “all in” on the best learning platform possible in order to keep our members engaged and educated and provide an experience that members would be willing to support. We also spoke with numerous department chairs and leaders about their support for their residents. Overwhelmingly, they noted that the savings from airfare, hotels and meals would allow them to support their resident’s attendance at our meeting. And to-date, we have seen strong registrations for our members-in-training. To ensure that as many as possible can attend, we are freezing the member-in-training and student rates at the early-bird level for the duration of the registration period. We also know that many people are still assessing their expenses for the year, so we are also extending our early-bird deadline for all attendees until September 8 to give you more time to secure your annual meeting attendance at the lowest rate.
Why register early?
- The meeting, customized for our specialty’s unique needs, includes all the educational and scientific programming you are accustomed to.
- In recognition of the financial impact our meeting cancellation will have on the Miami Beach area, ASTRO will donate a portion of all early-bird registration fees to two Florida cancer patient support organizations. We are happy to announce that the recipients are Caring Friends Cancer Support Group and Gilda's Club South Florida and we are pleased to show our support for their important work during this challenging time.
- All early-bird registrations will be recognized on our Patient Support Honor Roll, which will be unveiled during the Annual Meeting.
I am particularly excited about the internationally renowned Keynote speakers who will deliver remarks on timely topics including global health, COVID-19 and racial justice and equality. We are working on the final details of their presentations and will announce their names and the schedule soon. We also will have Storytelling, a new session that encourages you to share your experiences and interact with other attendees. The virtual poster hall offers a new feature ― author narration ― just one of this year’s virtual platform innovations designed to inspire and encourage you.
Not being able to meet in person is a disappointment, I concede. However, participating in this year’s ASTRO Annual Meeting offers you many opportunities that would not be possible in person, most notably that the content will be available to all registered attendees until November 30 to ensure access to all the presentations and materials. This year there are just as many ― if not more ― competing sessions, but you won’t have to miss any of them in this online format. There are more than 200 hours of CME credit opportunities — something that has never been possible before during a four-day meeting. We are also able to offer CAMPEP and ASRT credits. Additional new features include Master Classes on topics that include leadership, radiopharmaceuticals and the integration of medical marijuana into radiation oncology practice, and we are also bringing you more Cancer Breakthroughs sessions to showcase the top science from meetings that were postponed or held virtually, including ASCO, ESTRO and AAPM. The Cancer Breakthroughs session was added last year and was one of our highest evaluated sessions.
I truly am excited about the 2020 Annual Meeting and hope you are too. We know the importance that this meeting and the content presented provide in continuing your education and providing the latest science from the field. I invite you to check out the Meeting Highlights on the website and register now. We want you to take advantage of the best rates possible, so we’ve extended the early-bird registration through September 8 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time. Your participation is important to creating a collaborative experience and I look forward to “seeing” you at the meeting.
Posted: August 18, 2020
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By Laura Thevenot, ASTRO CEO
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that each ASTRO member has been impacted as you continue to provide world-class cancer treatment to your patients (and manage a host of new responsibilities like homeschooling children). Likewise, ASTRO has been impacted in many ways as we continue our work to provide high quality services to our members. As we launch registration for our virtual Annual Meeting on July 9, I want to explain how this meeting is coming about and why your participation is so important.
The ASTRO Annual Meeting is the primary income source for ASTRO, which is a 501(c)6 nonprofit. Unfortunately, ASTRO is not eligible to apply for any of the financial support available to many small businesses as a result of the pandemic. While membership dues produce roughly 15% of the organization’s overall budget, the Annual Meeting and income generated by the sponsorships, exhibitors and attendees is the revenue engine for ASTRO’s overall operations. This allows ASTRO to provide members with education and training for their practice, reimbursement and health policy expertise, advocacy work on Capitol Hill, clinical practice guidelines, safety resources and so much more.
Last year in anticipation that more than 11,000 radiation oncologists, residents, physicists and other health care professionals would descend on Miami in support of the Annual Meeting, ASTRO secured contracts with numerous entities including the Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, 54 hotel properties, transportation service providers, audio/visual firms, and much more. While the ASTRO Board acted quickly to change course to a virtual Annual Meeting due to COVID-19, there are still many contracts and significant damages that we are contractually obligated to pay. We do hold event cancellation insurance, which will offset some of these expenses, but we are in line behind more than 170 other medical meetings that canceled before us.
With the cancellation of the in-person event and other revenue generators, ASTRO proactively looked to streamline day-to-day operations and adjust budgets. Like many of you, we suspended all business travel, cut professional development and other costs and implemented pay and benefit cuts for all staff in an effort to curtail spending given the extraordinary disruption and an uncertain future. We instituted these budget cuts to avoid staff layoffs and maintain our commitment to provide you with the support and educational content you need. For ASTRO to continue to play its role in supporting members, we also need to keep the ASTRO organization healthy and fiscally sound.
In an effort to produce an immersive and interactive virtual meeting, ASTRO then invested in an online platform that is being customized for our community’s unique needs, including networking and interview opportunities and an expansive exhibit hall. I promise you this will not be a hyped up Zoom call! This virtual meeting will be immersive and unlike anything you have ever experienced before. This transition to a virtual platform required us to negotiate and secure new contracts with a range of vendors including an online platform provider, videographers and audio technicians, digital designers to create online materials, support to produce trainings and onboarding for all presenters and exhibitors, and so much more. Everything we have done to produce this Annual Meeting was done to create a world-class, unforgettable learning experience for you.
We recognize that every member of the ASTRO community has been impacted in so many ways by the pandemic, including financially. Based on our COVID-19 practice survey, we know that your patient volumes have been negatively impacted and therefore you expect revenue declines this year. At the same time, we have seen the resilience of radiation oncology during the pandemic, and we marvel with pride in your ability to provide cancer patients with needed treatments and services without disruption. We also know that cancer doesn’t wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, and the need to get the latest science out to the global oncology community is more pressing than ever.
Because we understand that both your time and financial resources are precious, we are making the content available to all registered attendees for 30 days to allow you time to view materials at a pace that works best for you. One of the top complaints we get about our meeting is that there are too many competing sessions, so key content is missed, but not this year! This format and the 30-day window allow us to provide over 200 hours of CME credits — something that has never been possible, nor ever offered before during a four-day meeting. We hope that the financial savings from airfare, hotel and meals will make it possible for more members than ever to participate and learn at our Annual Meeting. In recognition of the fiscal impact our meeting cancellation will have on the Miami Beach area, a portion of all early-bird registration fees will be donated to two local cancer patient support organizations in the greater Miami area.
While everything is different for the 2020 Annual Meeting, we hope that our community will continue to gather to learn from each other, network and show our resilience as we continue to make our way through this unprecedented time. Thank you for all that you do for ASTRO and for your care and support of cancer patients.
Posted: July 2, 2020
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