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

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New Era of Patient Advocacy at SWOG

Feb. 12, 2016 - Three MBAs, two MPHs, two RNs, plus an MPA and a PhD. Over a century of experience at the regional, national, and international level. Executives, educators, innovators, and survivors.

This is the face of patient advocacy at SWOG today. We have talked about our patient advocacy program before; Today I want to discuss our people. We’ve got the biggest, best crop in group history.

When I stepped in as chair three years ago, we had 13 patient advocates. Now we have 15. And very shortly, we will have 17. Newcomers include a second advocate for the breast committee, as well as new advocates for the rare cancers, cancer care and delivery, and recruitment and retention committees. Together, they represent a 30 percent increase in advocate membership.

We added to the ranks for a simple reason: When strong advocates are effectively used, they improve our work. With their input, we can produce better concepts and better protocols -- ones that are more likely to successfully accrue. We can close trials faster. And when we get important results, we can spread the word more broadly – getting us closer to our goal of improving cancer medicine and improving the lives of those touched by malignancies.

This group of advocates can get us there. These volunteers have a wealth of personal and professional experience to share. They lead cancer advocacy groups. They sit on NCI steering committees, and two serve on the advocate board for ASCO’s CancerLinQ big data project. Most have experience reviewing cancer research grants for organizations such as the Department of Defense and the American Cancer Society. A handful of them have lobbied Congress. One worked with former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher.

Our advocates’ reach is wide: Susan G. Komen, Critical Mass, AIM Melanoma, Research Advocacy Network, Fight Colorectal Cancer, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Gilda’s Club. That’s just a few. And this is important. When SWOG investigators want to reach out, these SWOG advocates can help them make connections.

I encourage you to read brief biographies of our advocates at swog.org/Visitors/Download/Publications/PtAdvocateBios.pdf. I also encourage you to engage our advocates, early and often. SWOG is better for having them.


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