Julie M. Vose, MD, MBA, FASCO, began her term as the 2015–2016 President of ASCO at the 2015 Annual Meeting on June 1, 2015. Dr. Vose, a leading expert in the treatment of patients with lymphoma, is the current Neumann M. and Mildred E. Harris Professorial Chair and Chief of the Oncology/Hematology Division in the Department of Internal Medicine and a Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).
Dr. Vose will serve as President of ASCO during a time of historic milestones for the organization.
After years of dedicated work on the part of leadership and volunteers, ASCO will roll out the first version of CancerLinQ, a cutting-edge health information technology platform that will aggregate data from health information systems across the country to provide real-time quality feedback to providers and uncover patterns to improve care.
Dr. Vose’s presidency will also coincide with a time of rapid change on the medical policy front, as just this past April Congress repealed the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, signaling its readiness to embrace new payment models.
Dr. Vose is ready to meet these challenges. “These are times of great change—and opportunity—in oncology. We see changes in treatments, changes in techniques, and also changes in the economics of health care. This year, we will see the launch of CancerLinQ, which will begin a new era of how we collect data. CancerLinQ will revolutionize oncology care by giving us extensive information about the 97% of all patients who aren’t on clinical trials, allowing us to improve the overall quality of cancer care and enabling us to generate hypotheses for future clinical trials and future treatments. It’s an exciting accomplishment for all of us who have been involved with ASCO for many years.”
Immediate Past President Peter Paul Yu, MD, FACP, FASCO, noted the unique skills and strengths Dr. Vose brings to the presidency.
“Each year, the ASCO President brings a different perspective and background to the position, and Dr. Vose will contribute her own special blend of skills and creativity,” said Dr. Yu. “Dr. Vose is an internationally respected hematologic oncologist with a particular interest in survivorship, one of oncology’s fastest growing areas, and the launch of the Cancer Survivorship Symposium in 2016 will be one of the highlights of her presidency. In addition, she has a strong management background and an MBA, both of which will be of critical value as ASCO looks to support our membership in all aspects of their professional careers.”
An ASCO member since 1991, Dr. Vose has served on the Board of Directors and the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) Editorial Board, as well as numerous other ASCO committees, including as Chair of the Cancer Education and Publications Committees, and as a member of the Scientific Program Committee. In 2014, Dr. Vose received the distinction of Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO).
An Early Introduction to the World of Medicine
Growing up in the small town of Mitchell, South Dakota, Dr. Vose was introduced to the laboratory at an earlier age than most. “My father was a pathologist and my mother was a nurse, so I grew up in a medical household,” said Dr. Vose. “I spent summers and time after school working in my dad’s lab and looking at cancer cells under the microscope, and I became fascinated with the subject. I wanted to understand how they grew and how they died, so when it came time to go to college and medical school, I decided I wanted to work on cancer.”
As an undergraduate at South Dakota State University, Dr. Vose majored in medical technology, with the goal of embarking on a career in laboratory research. However, she changed paths as she realized she wanted to work directly with patients, a decision which led her to medical school at UNMC.
While attending UNMC, Dr. Vose came under the mentorship of James O. Armitage, MD, FASCO, the renowned lymphoma and stem cell transplant specialist. Dr. Armitage is the founder of the Nebraska Medicine Stem Cell Transplantation Program, which pioneered autologous transplantation. He served as ASCO President from 1996–1997 and currently serves as Co-Chair of the White Blood Cell Growth Factors Expert Panel, the Editor-in-Chief of The ASCO Post, and as a member of the JCO Editorial Board. He is also the Deputy Editor of a new clinical section of the Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP).
In speaking about the mentorship, Dr. Vose said Dr. Armitage’s guidance laid the groundwork for her future success as a practicing oncologist and a clinical researcher.
“In general, I believe that to be successful, you have to have a great mentor, you have to have the skill, you have to be given great opportunities, and you have to take advantage of those opportunities. I was very fortunate in my life to be in a good place where all those things could come together,” she said.
A Leader in Lymphoma Research
Throughout her career, Dr. Vose has focused her research on the treatment of lymphoma, and the reason is close to home: Nebraska, like other rural states, has a disproportionate number of lymphoma cases. This trend created opportunities for Dr. Vose to research the etiology of lymphoma and new treatments for the disease.
Dr. Vose credits Dr. Armitage and UNMC with giving her the support to carry out groundbreaking work.
“The Stem Cell Transplantation Program was one of the early centers evaluating the use of white-blood-cell colony-stimulating factors for transplant, and that revolutionized the ability to do transplants safely,” said Dr. Vose. “We were also one of the first few centers in the world to use peripheral blood stem cells for transplants, as opposed to bone marrow. Both of these techniques are now standards of care at transplant centers thanks to early clinical trials.”
Dr. Vose also credits ASCO with providing an early highlight of her career: her first oral presentation at the 1988 Annual Meeting. “It was nerve-wracking at the time,” she joked, “but certainly beneficial in the long run.”
Today, Dr. Vose is involved with multiple clinical trials focused on novel therapies for Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. More recently, Dr. Vose has focused her research on monoclonal antibodies, vaccines, radioimmunotherapy, transplantation, and pathway-directed agents.
In addition to her work as a hematologist and clinical researcher, Dr. Vose currently serves as the Associate Director of Clinical Research at the Fred and Pamela Buffet Cancer Center. She has previously served as a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Biologics Committee and the FDA Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee. In addition, she has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the University of Nebraska Medical Center Physicians Group.
A Focus on Personalized Medicine
As President, Dr. Vose will follow a long ASCO tradition and introduce initiatives that are close to her heart. One of these initiatives is personalized medicine. “Personalized medicine refers not only to identifying the best therapies for patients based upon molecular analysis, but also ensuring that individual patients receive the multidisciplinary care they need, from diagnosis to focused treatments, supportive care, palliative care, and survivorship,” said Dr. Vose.
In large part, Dr. Vose’s interest in personalized medicine stems from her roots. In many sparsely populated areas, patients often have less access to the full array of medical services.
“Growing up in a small town gave me a greater understanding of how people have to travel long distances for specialty care,” Dr. Vose said. “Rural health care, specifically oncology, is a whole area of health care that needs additional supportive services. We need also to enhance tele-health and travel options for patients and ensure that patients receive the educational information they need.”
Dr. Vose’s focus on individual patients’ needs comes across in her poignant essay in the anthology The Big Casino: America’s Best Cancer Doctors Share Their Most Powerful Stories (May 2014), coedited by Stanley H. Winokur, MD, and Vincent Coppola. In her essay, Dr. Vose describes Cindy, a 33-year-old woman diagnosed with advanced peripheral T-cell lymphoma. Cindy, along with her large, supportive family, exhibited what seemed like odd behavior—laughing and joking throughout treatment. This led Dr. Vose to wonder if the family understood the seriousness of the prognosis.
Over time, however, as Dr. Vose came to know the family better, she realized what was going on: “laughter therapy,” as she later called it.
“After a while, I began to understand that laughter and joking were one family’s way of coping with a very stressful situation,” wrote Dr. Vose in her essay. “Of course, they’d always understood the seriousness of the situation. That realization helped me understand that every patient, every person, every family has a different way of coping. In Cindy’s case, it was: make sure you bring up the good things in life. Remember the fun times. Bring out the laughter. It can be a powerful tool.”
Dr. Vose tries to carry this lesson over into caring for her patients.
“I try to get to know each patient, their family, and their modus operandi so I can understand what works best in dealing with each unique situation,” said Dr. Vose. “I think it’s always beneficial to put the shoe on the other foot and think about a situation from the patient and family’s point of view, in respect to cancer care. In short: know your patient as a person.” ■
Originally printed in ASCO Connection. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “2015-2016 ASCO President Dr. Julie M. Vose: Leading During a Year of Historic Changes.” ASCO Connection, July 2015: 12-15. All rights reserved. ASCO President Julie M. Vose.