ASCO Formalizes Plan to Increase Workforce Diversity in Oncology

ASCO Formalizes Plan to Increase Workforce Diversity in Oncology

Dr. Karen Winkfield
In December 2016, the ASCO Board of Directors approved the ASCO Strategic Plan to Increase Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Oncology Workforce as part of the Society’s overall workforce diversity efforts, including the Diversity Mentoring Program and the Diversity in Oncology Initiative, an initiative designed to facilitate the recruitment and retention of individuals who are underrepresented in medicine to careers in oncology.

Developed through a multi-stakeholder effort led by ASCO’s Health Disparities Committee, the intent of the Strategic Plan is to guide ASCO’s formal efforts in this area over the next 3 years, from 2017 to 2020.

ASCO believes that increasing the size and diversity of the clinical oncology workforce is a crucial step to improving access to high-quality, effective, affordable, and compassionate cancer care for the underserved.

“Although the United States is growing increasingly heterogeneous, the physician workforce in oncology has failed to keep pace. For example, more than one-third of our population identifies as black or Hispanic, yet less than 10% of cancer doctors identify as black or Hispanic,” Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, chair of ASCO’s Health Disparities Committee, said. “A more diverse oncology workforce will help ensure access to high-quality care and foster more research and discovery in minority patients—both of which are needed to address the racial disparities that still persist.”

The ASCO Strategic Plan to Increase Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Oncology Workforce sets forth three major goals that include the establishment of a longitudinal pathway for increasing workforce diversity, enhancement of ASCO’s leadership diversity, and integration of a focus on diversity across ASCO programs and policies.

Measurements for accomplishing these three goals include developing and increasing tactics that focus on improving the Diversity in Oncology Initiative award programs for medical students and residents, increasing access to and availability of mentors, supporting career development for oncologists and trainees who are underrepresented in medicine, and ensuring diversity among ASCO leadership and committees, among others.

“The ASCO Strategic Plan for Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Oncology Workforce is the latest commitment from ASCO to develop a physician workforce that reflects the diversity of the patient population we serve,” Dr. Winkfield said. “With this plan, the Society has identified concrete, measurable ways we will continue to make meaningful progress toward this important goal.”

Implementation of the strategic plan is currently underway, and ASCO has convened a Work Group comprised of members of ASCO’s Health Disparities Committee, Professional Development Committee, and Workforce Advisory Group. Members of this Work Group will collaborate with ASCO staff to oversee implementation and measure outcomes. 

–Amy Hindman