Presidential Matters, Stephanie V. Blank, MD
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as the 54th President of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology. I am humbled and thrilled to be here, and I am looking forward to the year.
I cannot address anything else until I say this: the impending reversal of Roe v. Wade, as leaked in a draft opinion on May 2, 2022, promises increased interference with reproductive rights and the patient-physician relationship that we will face, and it will be critical for SGO members to work to protect our patients’ access to care and defend comprehensive reproductive medical care. Some may say that addressing this issue is veering from the SGO’s lane, but, in fact, actively opposing this decision (to clarify: not yet in effect) and advocating for continued equitable access to abortion is working towards optimal health outcomes, which are certainly part of our mission.
That being said, I need to start this, my first Presidential Matters column, by addressing an elephant in the room: Tampa, Florida. The SGO 2023 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer will be held there, and I, along with many of you, have concerns about bringing business to a state with legislation such as the 15-week abortion ban bill and the “don’t say gay” law, which are absolutely counter to SGO’s core values.
In the past, as you may know, the SGO Board of Directors canceled a smaller regional meeting that was to be held in Alabama for similar concerns. If it were easy to move the meeting–with all due respect to our Floridian SGO members–we would. We researched relocating the meeting, however, due to contracts signed years ago, the costs would be staggering and such a decision would be financially ruinous to our society. Additionally, the number of states with similar laws increases by the week, and if we limited our meeting sites to states that did not have problematic legislation, we would have only a handful of places in which to meet.
Of note, this issue will not arise for the next two scheduled Annual Meetings, which will be held in San Diego in 2024 and Seattle in 2025. This concern is not unique to SGO, and we are working with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other specialty societies to address it. The SGO 2023 Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer will take place in Tampa, March 25 – 28, and we look forward to seeing our colleagues in a warm, sunny location with a renovated convention center and hotels, under the esteemed leadership of scientific program chairs Dineo Khabele, MD and Paul DiSilvestro, MD. We are also being proactive about identifying suitable organizations whose missions do align with our values, as well as some onsite advocacy opportunities.
SGO’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and health equity goes beyond our plans for the Annual Meeting, so I wanted to highlight some accomplishments and upcoming events launched by the Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity committee, under the stellar leadership of Jeffrey Hines, MD and Navya Nair, MD:
Engendering Gender Equity in Gynecologic Oncology , a webinar scheduled for May 17, 2022, at 6:30 p.m. -7:30 p.m. CT, will be a live interactive dialogue between Dr. Hines, Eloise Chapman-Davis, MD; Elise Kohn, MD; Sarah Temkin, MD; myself and you focused on the recently published Creating Work Environments Where People of All Genders in Gynecologic Oncology Can Thrive: An SGO Evidence-based Review.
Welcoming Spaces: Treating Your LGBTQ+ Patients is a novel LGBTQ+ cultural humility training for all members of the healthcare team and specifically for those treating gynecologic cancer in transgender and gender non-conforming patients. Kudos and thanks to my fellow Advisory Council members Allison Asante, PA-C, Don Dizon, MD; BJ Rimel, MD and Ana Tergas, MD, as well as SGO staff professionals Teri Jordan and Pam Lewis. And in case you missed the related session at the Annual Meeting with the Advisory Council members and Joyce Barlin, MD, you can find it here.
The Leadership, Engagement, and Action in Diversity (LEAD) program is a true pipeline program aiming to expose Underrepresented in Medicine (URiM) medical students to the field of gynecologic oncology. Under the leadership of Charlotte Gamble, MD, and Margaret Liotta, MD, LEAD highlights funded gynecologic oncology sub internships for URiM medical students with a goal of diversifying the pipeline of gyn onc trainees. LEAD is designed to increase engagement in these programs and subsequently our field, hopefully establishing more diverse candidates.
We certainly have a lot to think about and a lot to look forward to this year.
Stephanie V. Blank, MD