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

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SWOG Young Investigators Task Force: A promising start

Aug 1, 2014 - I recently wrote in this column that I was convening a task force to help us better realize the full potential of our early-career researchers. At the time, I asked for volunteers, and I was extraordinarily gratified that a number of you responded. This new SWOG Young Investigator Task Force just met for the first time, with Dr. Cathy Eng chairing and Dr. Craig Nichols serving as Vice-Chair.

I assembled the Task Force primarily to ensure some uniformity in how SWOG mentors its younger researchers and how we groom the next cadre of Group leaders, particularly in light of new opportunities opened through our partnerships with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and The Jackson Laboratory. Regarding the latter, each of our semiannual live meetings since spring 2013 has hosted a mixed group of young translational medicine researchers from these laboratory partners. This informal mentoring has been beneficial, but the Task Force members agreed that a more formal approach could be even more effective and ensure the program continues and improves year after year.

The Task Force also discussed the idea of a formal research and leadership mentoring program as an adjunct to the Young Investigators Training Course, to continue to foster researchers' progress after they complete this initial training. With support from The Hope Foundation, we currently provide alumni two years of travel support for group meetings and other professional sessions after the YITC. Being able to also offer them the support of a structured mentoring program would maximize their chances for mid-career success and for maturing into effective leaders within the Group.

Other initiatives discussed included developing a true fellowship program for our early career researchers, creating a Letter of Intent rapid response team to encourage YI's ability to serve as primary SWOG study coordinators (details to be worked out with our Committee Chairs), and promoting greater collaboration of young investigators with our Adolescent and Young Adult and Cancer Care Delivery Committees.

The YI Task Force will meet regularly to review and guide our progress in reaching these and other goals. How will we know whether we're succeeding? Metrics will also be determined by the Task Force, but at a minimum, I anticipate we can measure our YITC alumni's success in shepherding their protocols into activation and successful completion, evaluate their success in earning peer-reviewed grant support, and see if we increase the quality and quantity of their Group participation.

Developing and nurturing the next generation of researchers/leaders within SWOG is among the most vital endeavors we undertake. The future success of the Group depends on it, and I believe our YITF will take our efforts to the next level.


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