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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

Improving diversity, equity and inclusion is a priority area for ASTRO, and we have launched multiple efforts on this front. We started a Mentor Match program to connect younger physicians with mentors, and we anticipate that this network will be used widely by female physicians, as well as physicians from underrepresented minority groups, who also are substantially underrepresented in the field. We also held an online social education series this summer, DEI in RO, with expert panels and town halls on issues such as women in leadership, structural racism, access to cancer care and LGBTQ+ issues in radiation oncology.

HCB News: What initiatives top your list for your time as president?
LD: One priority for me is raising the public profile of radiation oncology. Radiation is a highly effective cancer therapy that’s underutilized and probably underrecognized as one of the pillars of oncology care. There is more we can do to bring this message to medical students, other physicians and the public.
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Efforts to improve DEI in ASTRO are another priority, both for me and the ASTRO Board. There’s a desperate need to improve diversity in the field and in leadership positions. To that end, we prioritized the formation of a new ASTRO Council that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), with a vote planned at the Annual Meeting to update the bylaws. I look forward to working with the outstanding DEI team over the upcoming years.

Another key initiative is advocating for fair and stable Medicare reimbursement for radiation therapy. Radiation oncologists currently face $300 million in proposed cuts starting in 2022. If these cuts are finalized, Medicare reimbursement for radiation oncology will have plummeted 25% in the past decade. These cuts would threaten the viability of many community-based practices, jeopardizing patients' ability to get state-of-the-art cancer care close to home. The cuts also are in direct conflict with President Biden’s goals to “end cancer as we know it” and advance health equity. ASTRO is working to activate congressional leaders and the Biden administration to reverse these potentially devastating cuts.

There is much I hope to accomplish in my time on ASTRO's Board, and we are working to address other key challenges facing the specialty, including workforce issues and restrictive prior authorization practices.

HCB News: What are some of the things you’re most looking forward to at this year’s Annual Meeting?
LD:We have seen a positive reaction to holding the meeting in person and have heard from many members that they look forward to attending. ASTRO is working side-by-side with McCormick Place and the city of Chicago to ensure safety is the number one priority, in addition to providing a top-notch scientific meeting that will give attendees the most current information to take back to their clinics and patients. We also will offer a digital experience, DigitalXP, with nearly 50 hours of curated content for those who cannot attend in-person.

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