I want to continue the discussion, to honor those women who have paved the way, and to help figure out what we can do to give the future generation of women leaders the tools they will need to meet the ever-growing demands of our field.
—Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP
During her term as ASCO President, Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, of the Washington Cancer Institute has kept a solid focus on her presidential and 2013 ASCO Annual Meeting theme of “Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer.” These bridges take many forms, spanning challenges to be overcome in oncology practice. According to Dr. Swain, some of the most critical challenges that must be overcome include addressing the needs of the global oncology community, closing the gap in health disparities, connecting science with the clinic, and bringing the highest quality care to the patient.
As a member of the Conquer Cancer Foundation Board of Directors and as a longtime donor to the Conquer Cancer Foundation, Dr. Swain has contributed to an essential component of each of those bridges—her personal philanthropy.
Donations to the Conquer Cancer Foundation are fueling work in each of these key areas, helping to pave the way for a world free from the fear of cancer. The Foundation supports ASCO International through programs that create connections and provide educational opportunities for oncologists in low- and middle-income countries; it is working to combat health disparities through the Diversity in Oncology program; it fosters clinical and translational research through the Grants & Awards Program; and it champions quality care through support of ASCO’s revolutionary learning health system, CancerLinQ™.
Through their generosity, donors like Dr. Swain are building bridges to conquer cancer every day.
Honoring Women in Oncology
For the past several years, Dr. Swain has personally contributed to the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Jane C. Wright, MD, Young Investigator Award (YIA), which provides a year of research funding for a promising young investigator during the challenging transition from training to a cancer research career. The award is named in honor of Dr. Jane Wright, who was one of seven founding members of ASCO—the only woman among the founders—and the Society’s first Secretary/Treasurer.
Dr. Wright, who passed away early this spring, was a true trailblazer. At a time when the administration of chemotherapy was largely thought of as experimental, she pioneered the use of anticancer agents and developed new techniques for administrating cancer chemotherapy. And at a time when African American women physicians numbered only a few hundred in the entire United States, she was the highest ranked African American woman at a nationally recognized medical institution.
“When I hear the story of Dr. Jane Wright, I am truly amazed at her vision, courage, and fortitude in blazing her own path and advancing the field of oncology in so many ways,” said Dr. Swain.
Dr. Wright was just one of the many oncologists celebrated by Dr. Swain, ASCO, and the Conquer Cancer Foundation this year on International Women’s Day. In the last several decades, increasing numbers of women have entered the field of oncology—enrolling in medical school, conducting cancer research, and holding leadership positions in professional societies, cancer treatment centers, academia, government, and industry. Today, more than 30% of ASCO’s 30,000 members are women, and the number continues to increase each year as more and more women join the field.
Dr. Swain is dedicated to encouraging more women to pursue their passion for improving cancer care. “Throughout the course of my career, one issue that has remained close to my heart is encouraging women to pursue careers in medical leadership and clinical practice… And as a shortage in oncology professionals looms over us, it’s only wise to develop all the talent and nurture all the passion that we can find,” she said.
“I want to continue the discussion, to honor those women who have paved the way, and to help figure out what we can do to give the future generation of women leaders the tools they will need to meet the ever-growing demands of our field,” she said.
Giving That Inspires
For Dr. Swain, the life and career of Dr. Jane Wright are an inspiration that she honors through philanthropic support of the Jane C. Wright, MD, YIA. Many other ASCO Members also choose to support the Foundation in this way, by making donations in honor of fellow oncologists—mentors, colleagues, and friends—who have inspired them in their careers. Those individuals receive a personalized letter announcing the gift, and are listed as honorees on the Foundation’s website and on banners at the ASCO Annual Meeting.
“Giving to an organization like ours is a very personal act of generosity,” said Foundation Executive Director Nancy R. Daly, MS, MPH, “perhaps even more so for ASCO members who see the challenges and opportunities in cancer care up close on a daily basis. That’s why we always want to provide the opportunity for donors to express something personal through their giving—to use their gifts as a way to say ‘Thank you’ or ‘You inspire me’ to someone who has made a difference in their lives or careers.”
For Dr. Swain, it all comes back to building bridges, between colleagues, between doctor and patient, and between where we are now as a Society and where we want to be in the future: brick by brick, through ingenuity and generosity.
If you would like to make a donation in honor of Dr. Wright and her lifetime commitment to improving cancer care through research, you can do so by supporting the Jane C. Wright, MD, Young Investigator Award. Please help us honor her memory by making a gift today at ConquerCancerFoundation.org/donate. ■
© 2013. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.