Q&A with incoming ASTRO chair, Dr. Thomas Eichler

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Q&A with incoming ASTRO chair, Dr. Thomas Eichler

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | October 20, 2020
Rad Oncology
From the October 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


HCB News: What do you see as your key roles as chair?
TE: I think that every person who stands in these shoes sees things differently. I see myself as being responsible for trying to read the tea leaves for the future of the specialty and to be a proactive advocate not only for our members, but for our patients, as well. The last line from the policy statement I wrote in 2018 when I ran for president resonates today: “The path ahead is uncertain, but I promise you I will work tirelessly on your behalf, guided by our strategic plan to preserve the integrity of our specialty and to advance the practice of radiation oncology.”

Quite simply, that’s my goal — to be a good steward of the specialty and to work collaboratively with ASTRO's board of directors, members and staff as we promote, advance and support radiation oncology, and guide the specialty into the future as trusted leaders of the cancer management team.

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HCB News: Can you describe any initiatives you’re championing as chair?
TE: A great example is the Annual Meeting, because it’s a different focus than ASTRO meetings in the past. The theme of our Annual Meeting this year is “Global Oncology: Radiation Therapy in a Changing World”; and while this theme was selected two years ago, it could not be more salient today. Sometimes history commands your attention and imposes its will on the moment. More broadly, global health will be a focus, specifically trying to bridge access disparities to radiation therapy services in low- and middle-income countries, as well as tackling similar challenges in medically underserved areas of the U.S., such as rural areas and the inner city. ASTRO will be part of a strategy to coordinate efforts with our sister societies, both at home and abroad, as well with like-minded NGOs. The goal of the Annual Meeting, in that sense, is to not only educate our membership about these issues, but to inspire them to get involved at some level.

Another pressing issue is the lack of diversity in the house of medicine as a whole and in radiation oncology more specifically. I plan to continue efforts initiated this year by our current chair, Theodore DeWeese, M.D., FASTRO, to increase the number of women and Black physicians who choose radiation oncology as a career path. I hope, ultimately, to help our specialty look more like the patients we treat.
These are long-term efforts that will take many years, but the work has begun and I look forward to being able to contribute whatever leadership I can to make positive changes in access and diversity a reality.

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