Despite continued technological advances in radiation oncology, well-documented disparities and inequities in cancer care and outcomes continue to persist domestically and globally. While diversification of the physician workforce is seen as an important component to addressing health disparities, certain specialties, such as radiation oncology, remain disproportionately underrepresented by women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities. Importantly, the ASTRO Board of Directors identified Diversity and Inclusion as one of five core values in its Strategic Plan last year.
Since recently being elevated to the status of a full committee within ASTRO, the Committee on Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (CHEDI) has been working diligently to raise the awareness of our committee and achieve our recently updated mission: To advance the status of minorities and the underserved in oncology through educational and professional opportunities, advocacy and awareness. Our committee’s work is executed through several initiatives, a few of which are detailed below.
ASTRO Minority Summer Fellowship: This flagship program of the committee is designed to expose medical students from racial and ethnic backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in medicine to radiation oncology. Launched in 2010, the fellowship award provides awardees with an eight-week summer training program (with clinical exposure) and attendance at an ASTRO Annual Meeting. The majority of our program fellows have gone on to successfully apply and match in radiation oncology residency programs. This year’s winners are:
- Zachary White from the University of Southern Alabama, who was selected as the Basic Science awardee for his project with mentor Markus Bredel, MD, PhD, at the University of Alabama Birmingham, entitled Impact of ANXA7 I1 Expression on PDGFRA and MET Endosomal Trafficking in GBM.
- Amandeep Mahal from Yale University, who was selected as the Clinical awardee for his project with mentor James Yu, MD, MHS, entitled The Effect of Race and Decision Aids on Physician Recommendation for Prostate Cancer Treatment Planning.
If you are interested in being listed on ASTRO’s website as a potential faculty mentor for the Minority Summer Fellowship, please contact Natalie Cain at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each year, students across the country utilize this faculty mentor listing to identify potential mentors and research projects.
Educational Sessions at the ASTRO Annual Meeting: A few years ago, CHEDI made a concerted effort to increase content at the ASTRO Annual Meeting addressing health equity and disparities. We are pleased to report that for the second consecutive year, CHEDI will have three educational sessions at the upcoming ASTRO Annual Meeting, which were successfully selected through the peer-reviewed, session submission process:
- “Increasing minority enrollment in clinical trials in radiation oncology: Why and how” – represents the annual ASTRO-NCI Diversity Symposium, a long-standing session now managed by CHEDI.
- “Achieving Gender Equity in Radiation Oncology” – features a joint association session with the American Association for Women Radiologists.
- “The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Cancer Care for Underserved Communities: The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown” – includes representatives from the ASTRO Advocacy team and health services research discussing this ever-important and changing topic.
Pipeline Protégé Program: This novel program was recently developed by CHEDI leadership as an inclusive career development program aimed at bringing diversity to ASTRO’s Councils and diversifying ASTRO’s future leaders. Protégé’s must be be a board-certified radiation oncologist or medical physicist and have a demonstrated interest in diversity, inclusion, health equity and/or disparities. The program has a yearlong term beginning and ending at the ASTRO Annual Meeting and aligns a protégé with an ASTRO Council, where they will assist leadership with executing an important project within the Council. Protégés will have access to seasoned leaders and planning conversations that help shape ASTRO’s efforts in clinical affairs, quality, education, government relations, health policy and science, while ensuring the inclusion of diverse perspectives.
We look forward to the participation of all ASTRO members in these activities to benefit our Society, institutions, communities and, ultimately, the diverse patients we serve.
Dr. Curtiland Deville is an Associate Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.