Called to Lead: Tara O. Henderson, MD, MPH, Selected for Presidential Leadership Scholars Program

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ASCO congratulates pediatric oncologist Tara O. Henderson, MD, MPH, on being selected for the 2018 Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program. This highly competitive and prestigious national program was created to help individuals from many professional backgrounds develop the practical leadership skills necessary to solve civic problems and have a lasting positive impact on their field and the world.

Member to Watch

Dr. Henderson is Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Center at The University of Chicago. More recently, she was named Director of Cancer Survivorship for the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center. She completed her pediatrics residency at Johns Hopkins, her pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Children’s Hospital Boston combined program, and her master’s degree in public health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Tara O. Henderson, MD, MPH. Photo by Dave Christopher.

Tara O. Henderson, MD, MPH. Photo by Dave Christopher.

Dr. Henderson established herself as an ASCO member to watch from the start of her oncology career. In 2005, the same year she completed her MPH, she received a Conquer Cancer Foundation Merit Award for her research on sarcomas as a subsequent malignancy in survivors of pediatric malignancy, conducted as part of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. The award recognizes fellows and oncology trainees whose research is addressed in high-quality abstracts submitted to an ASCO meeting.

She joined the Society in 2007 and has been a dedicated and active volunteer since. She currently chairs the Cancer Survivorship Committee and the Adolescent and Young Adult Survivorship Work Group and also serves on the Survivorship Guideline Advisory Group and the Survivorship Care Plan Work Group. She is a member of the Conquer Cancer Foundation Grants Selection Committee and serves on the Cancer Education Committee, where she has helped develop ASCO Annual Meeting educational sessions related to pediatric oncology. She has been a participant in -ASCO’s advocacy days on Capitol Hill for the past 2 years.

Outside of ASCO, Dr. Henderson holds steering committee positions in the National Cancer Institute (Cancer Prevention Committee), Children’s Oncology Group (Hodgkin Lymphoma and Survivorship/Outcomes Committees), and the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study (Publications Committee).

Leadership Development Program

She credits her growth as a leader in organized medicine to the skills and experience she gained as a participant in ASCO’s Leadership Development Program (LDP). The LDP is a yearlong program that teaches participants valuable leadership skills, offers exposure to the roles and mission of ASCO, and prepares graduates to become future leaders in the Society and other areas of medicine. The program includes practical instruction on topics such as conflict management, communication, and teamwork, as well as media and advocacy training. Dr. -Henderson was in the 2014–2015 LDP class.

“The LDP was one of the most wonderful years of my career. I liked meeting people from all different areas of oncology, and we were taught incredible skills,” she said. “I would encourage everyone to apply.”

Over the course of the year, LDP participants undertake a small-group interactive learning project related to ASCO’s mission, which they present to the Board of Directors. Dr. Henderson was part of a group tasked with making recommendations related to the issue of physician wellness and professional burnout. The group conducted interviews with practicing oncologists, ASCO leadership, and wellness experts. They also sought perspectives from nonmedical industries and businesses where burnout is a major concern, such as United Airlines and its pilot safety initiatives. The group’s recommendations laid the foundation for ASCO’s current physician wellness efforts and continue to inform the Society’s ongoing work in this area.

Presidential Leadership Scholars

Dr. Henderson’s experience in the LDP whetted her appetite for leadership skills training and close collaboration, and she was keen to find a similar opportunity when PLS came to her attention rather unexpectedly: “I was in my car, and they were talking about the Presidential Leadership Scholars on National Public Radio,” she said.

PLS is a nonpartisan educational program organized by the presidential centers of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Scholars learn leadership lessons from the four presidencies, meet with distinguished leaders (including some of the former U.S. Presidents), and have access to the resources at the presidential centers. Along the way, scholars develop a personal leadership project intended to increase the social good. The NPR segment, she said, “explained that PLS was looking for people who were interested in improving some aspect of our country.”

Dr. Henderson’s primary professional interest is improving outcomes for survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancers. Her research has examined the development of second malignant neoplasms in this population, effective surveillance strategies for high-risk survivors, and the barriers that prevent survivors from receiving such surveillance. She is the recipient of a National Cancer Institute K07 Career Development Award, a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Award, and a St. Baldrick’s Foundation Consortium Award for her survivorship research.

She is acutely aware of the obstacles that affect childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer survivors when they transition from active oncology care to being seen in a primary care setting, and her PLS project will focus on solutions to the fractured system of survivorship care. As with the LDP wellness project, she is eager to learn from the insights of participants in other fields and tackle the issue from a fresh perspective. Scholars in the PLS program represent a wide variety of professional backgrounds, including business, law, technology, philanthropy, education, media, and the armed forces, among many others.

“I’m excited to get out of my box and think about this problem with those who aren’t pediatric oncologists,” Dr. Henderson said. “Being cross-collaborative enables you to think in new and deeper ways.” 

2018 will be an intense year for Dr. Henderson as she balances the significant commitments of PLS, her professional and volunteer responsibilities, time with her husband and three children (two daughters and a son), and her own wellness. She feels fully prepared thanks to her experience in -ASCO’s LDP. “It’s going to be invigorating,” she said. ■

Originally published in ASCO Connection. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “Called to Lead: Dr. Tara O. Henderson Selected for Presidential Leadership Scholars Program.” ASCO Connection, March 2018. All rights reserved.

Applications for the 2019 ASCO Leadership Development Program open in July 2018.

Visit to learn more about the program and review the eligibility criteria.