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

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The evolution and evaluation of SWOG's semiannual group meeting

June 27, 2014 - We are continuously working to improve the live group meeting experience for SWOG members, so I carefully review the meeting evaluation forms that accompany requests for Continuing Medical Education credit certification, and discuss them with my Executive Advisory Committee and Committee Chairs. The assessments of the overall quality of our recent spring meeting were gratifying and helpful, with 97% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement "The program met my expectations and learning needs." I'm pleased to report the sessions seem to have a longer-lasting impact -- about two-thirds of respondents said they plan to make changes in their practice based on what they learned at the meeting, with the most-oft cited changes being the opening of additional trials and steps to increase accrual. Not surprisingly, funding and resource constraints were the most frequently mentioned barriers to these intended changes.

Of course we always assess areas of potential interest for future meetings, and 99% of respondents identified "future research directions" as being of high or highest priority. A few of the specific topics listed under this heading were trial design, immunotherapy, novel agents research, and translational science.

Having reviewed these evaluations, we're making a few adjustments to the fall meeting schedule and are also planning some new features. We've moved Friday's Plenary II, the general plenary session, from early afternoon to first thing in the morning. It will serve as a shared event from which we can all start our meeting day. Correspondingly, the Harry Hynes Symposium in Cancer Control and Prevention, formerly held late morning on Friday, is being moved to late morning on Thursday. The Plenary I session, devoted to Translational Medicine, will remain a Thursday afternoon event. We have also spread out our working group and committee sessions as compared to the last two group meetings. This should help reduce session conflicts and allow more time to ensure meeting room setups meet session needs.

A good deal of the work that happens at our semiannual meetings never makes it to the official schedule. These are the small, ad hoc meetings, often scheduled at a moment's notice, that go on behind the scenes and lay the ground work for what eventually makes it to the formal agenda. We're working with The Hope Foundation to put into action a wonderful idea proposed by Drs. Schott and Ellis: Setting up some continuously available, lightly catered space in which these meetings can take place. The semiannual meetings are all about face-to-face interaction; this will be an additional piece of infrastructure to make these interactions easier logistically.

As discussed in a previous column, we are planning a Translational Medicine retreat to immediately follow the fall group meeting in Chicago, starting mid-day Saturday. The Saturday morning Board of Governors session and Committee Chairs session will begin an hour earlier than at recent meetings to free up time for the start of the TM retreat.

We can make meeting changes for the better only if you as a SWOG member provide feedback. Thanks for taking the time to attend and then to fill out the evaluation! Please continue to let us know what's working, what's not working, and what you want future agendas to look like.


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