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The Front Line
The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair

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Term Limits for SWOG Committee Chairs

Dec 13, 2013 - I wrote in October about SWOG's plans for keeping our leadership fresh and enabling the next generation to take leading roles in the organization. My focus then was on performance reviews; today I want to discuss term limits, at multiple levels within SWOG.

Last spring, SWOG's Board of Governors approved a new term limit policy for committee chairs, with limits matching those that were put in place for the SWOG Group Chair:

Committee Chairs may serve up to three consecutive five-year terms with an annual performance review by the Group Chair and a mid-term 360 degree performance evaluation.

Such restrictions fulfill a new requirement under the National Clinical Trials Network. The terms and conditions of an NCTN award stipulate restricted tenure for senior leadership of the Network Group and for the leadership of its committees. As with our leadership performance review approach, the shape of the term limit regimen we are putting in place came out of the work of a Leadership Tenure Task Force led by Dr. Vernon Sondak in early 2012.

Imposing a finite period in which leaders can serve is controversial. That task force -- and the group that discussed it at a leadership retreat led by Dr. Baker -- actually split on the question of whether our committee chairs should have term limits at all. The primary argument against term limits was that they might put SWOG chairs at a disadvantage when competing with more seasoned and established chairs in other cooperative groups. The NCTN has effectively eliminated that objection by stipulating that all of the groups must have term limit policies in place.

During Dr. Baker's tenure, several of our longest serving committee chairs left office. Our currently longest serving chair, Dr. Richard Fisher, has also announced that he will be stepping down shortly from his role as chair of SWOG's Lymphoma Committee. I've asked Dr. Robert Orlowski to head up a search committee to identify the most qualified candidates to lead our Lymphoma efforts going forward.

When the task force met, I supported having term limits, particularly to increase leadership opportunities for as many members as possible. With NCI requirements, the question of having them is moot. But, I believe the terms selected will allow our Chairs to most effectively master the steep SWOG learning curve and best use ‚Äúlessons learned‚ÄĚ in running their Committees, while still allowing for inflow of new blood and new ideas regularly. The Committees and SWOG as a whole should no doubt benefit.

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