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Are you ready for the ASTRO annual meeting?

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | October 15, 2021
Rad Oncology
From the October 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

When I returned to medical school, I arranged for electives in radiation oncology, and that was where I fell in love with the specialty. There was no question that it was for me. After graduating, I did a fellowship at the University of Michigan, and I focused on technological advances in radiation oncology. It was a really enjoyable time in my career, where I collaborated with physicists, developed technical innovations and was involved with clinical trials. It was around this time that I started getting active in ASTRO, too.

In Ann Arbor, I developed a clinical and research interest in treating liver cancers. I’ve kept that passion for treating patients with liver cancer throughout my career. When I returned to Canada, I helped to start a stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) program at the University of Toronto, and since that time liver cancer SBRT has been my main clinical and research focus.

HCB News: What is your history with ASTRO?
LD: I've been a member since I completed my residency in the 1990s, and being active with ASTRO has always been important to me. I have attended all of the Annual Meetings except one that was cancelled due to a hurricane, and I've served on and chaired committees, especially those focused on education and the effective use of technology. After becoming more involved in the Annual Meetings , I was elected to the board of directors as Education Council vice-chair, then chair. After that term was over, I took a few years off from the board before returning to run for the leadership track.

HCB News: While the number is increasing, women are still significantly underrepresented in oncology. How can equity be improved in the specialty?
LD: That topic is near and dear to me, and it's part of the reason I pursued the leadership track with ASTRO. I want to be a role model and encourage other female medical students to consider radiation oncology as a specialty. About a third of ASTRO members are women, and I’m surprised whenever I see those numbers. In leadership, for many years there were few women. I’m the fifth female ASTRO president out of more than 50. But after me, Dr. Geraldine Jacobson is incoming president. So, the field is evolving and we’re seeing positive change.

Women in radiation oncology also are becoming much more visible and vocal about their work in the field. For example, #WomenWhoCurie is a popular hashtag on Twitter that you often see next to #radonc, and it's a grassroots creation from this community. We hope that medical students see these tweets from women in radiation oncology and see that we’re proud to be in the field. ASTRO also put together a "Women Who Curie" video with examples of women with interesting careers in radiation oncology.

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