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

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Steps Forward and Backward, But Always on Track

July 22, 2016 - Something big happened this week. We put out a call to redesign and rebuild the SWOG website. This reflects a ton of work polling members for what they need and want, convening a formal working group, and having our communications manager, Wendy Lawton, write the request for proposals and research web development firms. This RFP went out to 22 firms, from New York City to Austin to Albuquerque to San Francisco. And to a few right here in Portland. In September, we choose the firm. Next year, you get a functional, beautiful new website.

I reported on this and other progress on Monday for the quarterly meeting of the Hope Foundation board of directors. These Hope meetings always give me the opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and our challenges. Change may not always as swift as I’d like. But it is steady. And it is progress. It is clear we are moving in the direction we’ve set for ourselves.

Here is what I told the Hope board about where we are:

  • Innovating with digital tools: Our digital engagement committee has completed its planning and is working on a full report to the board of governors in September in Chicago, where it will deliver its recommendations for how we can use digital tools to better connect with members, better connect with the public, and improve our clinical trials. They’ve asked me not to scoop them by writing the details here, but I promise it is worth staying tuned!
  • Applying the best science: In August, a group of exceptional young investigators will meet with our basic science partners at The Jackson Laboratory for the 2016 Integrated Translational Science Center Workshop. The goal, from the inspiring words at Plenary I this spring, is “building a personalized medicine generator through translational research partnerships.”
  • Working smarter: In June, SWOG leaders met at Hope with two exceptional volunteers working with us to identify our information technology needs and help us plan to better meet them. Working with these terrific private sector volunteers, identified by Rick Bangs, our patient advocate committee chair, we will create a staffing and resource plan that helps us throughout our group - in operations, administration, and even trial accrual.

I also told the Hope board what I’ve reported right here in Front Line in recent weeks. We hit the 1,000-member site mark. We brought in more than $1.5 million in supplemental funding for our trials. We’re data mining for Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot, and preparing a stellar 60th anniversary celebration for Chicago.

To be frank, our progress is not perfect. We don’t meet every deadline, and we don’t hit every target our first try. Take the website. I’d originally aimed to launch a new SWOG.org by the end of 2016. And I had to make the difficult decision this week to delay the launch of our SWOG/NCTN Leadership Academy until the April group meeting. We just aren’t quite sufficiently ready to guarantee the successful start that this important program demands. But we are moving forward, as confidently and quickly as we can. Thanks for being on that upward path with SWOG.


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