My Meeting Experience: A Radiation Oncologist’s Perspective

My Meeting Experience: A Radiation Oncologist’s Perspective

Dr. Sarah A. Thurman
Sarah A. Thurman, MD, is a radiation oncologist with NorthMain Radiation Oncology. An ASCO member since 2001, Dr. Thurman has attended numerous ASCO Annual Meetings. In the following interview, Dr. Thurman discusses her takeaways from the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting and provides advice to attendees.

Daily News: How has research presented at the ASCO Annual Meeting in the past affected how you practice?

Dr. Thurman: Last year’s Education Session “Controversies in Neoadjuvant Therapy for Breast Cancer: Surgery, Radiation and Therapeutic Trials” was outstanding. This lecture, with all disciplines represented, provided a comprehensive overview of the data for the use of completion axillary dissection and the role of postmastectomy radiation in the increasingly common setting of neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Everyone should listen to it at least once. (Visit the ASCO Virtual Meeting to access this presentation.)

Daily News: What short- and long-term takeaways did you come away with from the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting?

Dr. Thurman: As always, the short-term takeaways are renewing old collegial friendships and catching up on state-of-the-art approaches to cancer management. Last year’s Plenary Session including the Science of Oncology Award and Lecture was pivotal for me. I now have a better understanding of the basic mechanisms of action regarding immunotherapy and the therapies available to exploit this knowledge. Now, I feel better prepared when talking to my patients and colleagues.

Daily News: How do you plan your time during the Annual Meeting? What general topics sessions do you make sure to see?

Dr. Thurman: The Meeting is overwhelming given its size and attendance. I learned the hard way to manage my time by carefully studying the sessions’ graphical layout. I now pick a disease site track and follow it through the entire Meeting. I attend all Clinical Science Symposia and Education Sessions for the particular disease track that I follow. Also, I do not miss the Plenary Session or Science of Oncology Award Lecture, as these provide an incredible amount of information.

Daily News: Why is it important for radiation oncologists to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting?

Dr. Thurman: The ASCO Annual Meeting affords me an opportunity to learn more about subtle nuances in cancer management. By attending an oncology meeting with a broader focus than just radiation oncology, I learn more about the discipline of oncology and new or evolving thought processes regarding disease management. I am better prepared to deal with the increasingly complex algorithms for cancer management. The Meeting spurs thought and forces me to keep up and ask questions from my colleagues.

Daily News: What advice do you have for first time attendees to get the most out of the experience?

Dr. Thurman: First, pick a disease site track and stick to it. By staying with one track, you are anchored physically and mentally, making the Meeting much more manageable. Second, use the Virtual Meeting. The Virtual Meeting allows you to go back and listen to a lecture that you thought was important and catch other talks that you may have missed.