Partnering With Patients: The Cornerstone of Cancer Care and Research

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Partnering With Patients: The Cornerstone of Cancer Care and Research

May 25, 2023

Eric P. Winer, MD, FASCO

The health and well-being of our clinicians, our communities, and our care systems need vigilance now more than ever to ensure we keep pace with the effects of change that is also advancing our medicine. When clinicians or patients talk about health care, they might mention frustrations with forms or wait times, or hopefulness about a new treatment, but at its core, the conversation is about the partnerships and trust that are the bedrock of our care and research. Strong communication between patients and physicians must be maintained, as it yields the best experiences and potential outcomes.

Amplifying the Patient Voice

The health of the clinician-patient relationship has been affected both positively and negatively in recent years. Digital access to medical information (and disinformation) has meant new opportunities to educate, but it also has resulted in confusion at times. Despite many challenges, it is critical that we, as a community, work to build stronger partnerships between clinicians and patients. These partnerships will improve the patient experience, but they may also result in a far more satisfying experience for the clinician. In addition, strong partnerships may enhance recruitment to clinical trials. On Sunday, June 4, at the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago, I will moderate a session with two representatives of the patient community entitled, “Partnering With Patients—Making It Real.”

To further magnify the patient voice, a new feature of this year’s Annual Meeting will be our first patient forum: “ASCO Patient Forum: Communicating the Needs of People With Cancer.” The forum will be held on June 5 and aims to engage patients and advocates in a robust discussion about the unmet needs and expectations of diverse patient communities, which can be shared with members and the larger cancer community. The discussion topics will seed future events and conversations that keep patient needs top of mind, help generate solutions, and, ultimately, drive change (see more details of the forum below).

Maintaining a Healthy Workforce

As we work to build partnerships between patients and their oncology clinicians, we must pay close attention to the well-being of the workforce. ASCO established the Oncology Clinician Well-Being Task Force in 2020. Since then, the task force has improved accessibility to existing resources and even added a new benefit to members in the United States. SafeHaven ( is a comprehensive collection of physician well-being resources. The benefit, which ASCO is subsidizing for the full 18-month pilot program, is part of a collaboration with VITAL WorkLife and the Medical Society of Virginia.

This year’s Annual Meeting will again include an educational session on physician well-being: “Addressing Grief, Burnout, and Well-Being in the Practice of Oncology.” The session panel members will lead a case-based discussion on the relationship between clinician grief and burnout, including the impact on the oncologist, team, and organizational well-being. The June 5 session will highlight evidence-based solutions to reduce professional burnout and bolster well-being on the oncology team (see below for more session details).

As I transition to the role of ASCO Past President and Chair of the Board, I look forward to continuing to work in enhancing partnerships between patients and clinicians. I will also continue to work closely with volunteers and staff at ASCO on approaches ASCO can take to enhance professional well-being of our workforce.

Two Sessions Not to Miss at the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting

“ASCO Patient Forum: Communicating the Needs of People with Cancer”: June 5 from 8:30 to 9:30 AM (CT) in the Patient Advocate Lounge on site at McCormick Place in Chicago. I will lead the panel alongside ASCO’s Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer and Vice President Sybil R. Green, JD, RPh, MHA, and noted radiation oncologist Fumiko Chino, MD, Assistant Attending Radiation Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Panelists include Mandi Pratt-Chapman, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Professor of Prevention and Community Health at George Washington Cancer Center; Barbara Segarra-Vasquez, DHSc, a faculty member at the University of Puerto Rico, and cancer survivor and patient advocate; Tony Christon-Walker, a cancer survivor, patient advocate, and author; and Sheila Johnson, a veteran, cancer survivor, and patient advocate.

“Addressing Grief, Burnout, and Well-Being in the Practice of Oncology”: June 5 from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM (CT) in S102 on site at McCormick Place in Chicago and available on demand afterward. Fay J. Hlubocky, PhD, MA, will lead a panel that features Laurie Jean Lyckholm, MD, providing the physician perspective; Christopher Ryan Friese, PhD, RN, AOCN, providing the nursing perspective; and Vicki A. Jackson, MD, MPH, providing the palliative care perspective. 

DISCLOSURE: Dr. Winer reported no conflicts of interest.

Dr. Winer is President of ASCO and Director of Yale Cancer Center and Physician-in-Chief of Smilow Cancer Network at Yale New Haven.

Disclaimer: This commentary represents the views of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of ASCO or The ASCO Post.

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