Presidential Matters: S. Diane Yamada, MD
I am deeply honored to serve as your 53rd President of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology. This past year has been fraught with inconceivable challenges for you, your families, and your patients, but your unwavering commitment and perseverance in navigating and overcoming these obstacles are truly inspiring. I want to sincerely thank you for your efforts during these difficult times.
Despite the challenges we face, I am very hopeful about the future. Just last week, I felt a rush of optimism as every patient I saw in clinic had received the COVID-19 vaccine. CDC statistics pointed to 135 million people fully vaccinated in the U.S.1 I look forward to watching this number grow as we return to a new normal. However, while rounding on our in-patient service, I was reminded of how much more work there is left in building trust with our patients. Only through this can we achieve optimal outcomes. My team and I consulted on a 90-year-old woman who had been admitted with abdominal pain, a palpable umbilical mass, and elevated CA125. We discussed that the next step would typically be a biopsy of this mass to get a diagnosis. Almost immediately, she asked, “Are you going to be experimenting on me by doing this?” We chose our words carefully to foster trust as we helped her and her family navigate their care options. We have many barriers to address both inside and outside our healthcare system to restore trust, address expectations, and improve patient outcomes. Hence, under the leadership of program chairs Amanda Nickles Fader, MD and Sarah Adams, MD, our theme for this year and the SGO 2022 Annual Meeting is “Building bridges and breaking down barriers.”
Our current strategic plan stands on three pillars: 1) developing standards to prevent and treat gynecologic cancers; 2) fostering greater diversity, equity, inclusion, and accountability within our society and the healthcare community; and 3) supporting our membership through operational excellence, innovation, engagement, and efficiency. There is significant work to be done to build bridges and break down barriers in all three of these areas, but the time and resources available to our volunteer members and SGO professional staff are precious. Everything we do in the next year should be assessed through the lens of these strategic pillars. We will continue to bring new findings and contemporary issues to the membership in formats that promote inclusivity and meet the diverse needs and expectations of our members. This includes the format for the SGO 2022 Annual Meeting, which is currently being planned as a hybrid in-person/virtual meeting to encourage participation and involvement.
Change only occurs in an organization when we actively facilitate improvements and hold important conversations at every level – from those on the ground to those in leadership positions, we must all work together to be and create change in SGO. To fully listen and respond to the voices of our membership, we proposed a bylaws change that stipulates additional board of directors positions for the chair of the Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity Committee, a community practice-based member, an early career member, and an associate member representative. This change would be in addition to the current designated fellow-in-training member position on the board. I strongly encourage you to vote on the proposed bylaws changes by the June 7 deadline.
To complement change at the leadership level, we proposed to open the pipeline for diverse volunteer involvement in committees. Through the Leadership Institute, supported by the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, we started a committee observership program where a group of early-career members are selected and rotate through three different committees to experience committee involvement, networking, and mentorship. The response has been overwhelmingly positive – we received 70 stellar applications for nine positions! We will also tackle inequity that affects our members and patients through the Gender Equity Subcommittee headed by SGO President-Elect | Stephanie V. Blank, MD and the newly developed Health Equity Subcommittee headed by recent former SGO president, David E. Cohn, MD, MBA. In the coming weeks, we will be sending out a call to the membership requesting a co-leader for the Health Equity Task Force. This co-leader will help identify and shape key initiatives for health equity development over the next few years.
In such a short period of time, it has been exciting for me to see the enthusiasm and energy that emanates from our volunteer members and SGO professional staff. This level of energy is similarly matched by those in the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, which has undergone significant programmatic growth. Under the leadership of Ginger J. Gardner, MD and David Mutch, MD, the Foundation further developed patient education materials and increased fundraising capabilities for research initiatives. Their partnership with SGO professionals helps bring novel ideas to fruition and highlights all the good the Foundation is doing for our patients and our members. I encourage you to support the Foundation by making a gift as a tangible way to build a bridge to better patient care and better outcomes. As always, Pierre Désy, MPH, CAE, Chief Executive Officer of SGO and FWC, and I welcome your comments and suggestions. You may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
S. Diane Yamada, MD
1https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations. Accessed 5/31/21.