Thanks to the membership category ASCO designed for physicians in developing countries, Brazilian oncologist Milena Mak, MD, can greatly enhance the care she delivers in the very busy 580-bed Instituto do Cancer do Estado de Sao Paulo.
And radiation oncologist Pooja Nandwani Patel, MD, can use the experience of others from around the world in the cancer treatment she provides at the 650-bed Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, which sees 800 to 900 cancer patients per day.
Drs. Mak and Patel are just two of the oncologists who belong to ASCO’s International Corresponding membership category, an online-focused category that offers an affordable membership option for experienced licensed physicians who are eligible for ASCO’s Full membership and who reside in a developing nation, as defined by the World Bank as one whose economy is low, lower-middle, or upper-middle income. This membership category is open to oncologists from every specialty.
The membership fee for the International Corresponding category is significantly discounted. Although it provides a lower-cost ASCO membership option to those in developing countries, where cancer is most prevalent, all membership categories are available to international prospective members depending upon eligibility.
The International Corresponding category delivers the numerous benefits of ASCO membership in an online-only format. The reduced fee gives members access to ASCO’s premier oncology journals, Journal of Clinical Oncology and Journal of Oncology Practice, and includes savings of 20% off all ASCO Educational Products and Resources.
International Corresponding members also receive significant savings off the nonmember registration rate for the ASCO Annual Meeting and Symposia as well as advance access to members-only housing and registration for each ASCO Annual Meeting. In addition, international members have the opportunity to apply for Conquer Cancer Foundation grants and awards, including the International Development and Education Award (IDEA), which pays for international members to come to the ASCO Annual Meeting and afterward shadow a mentor.
Connecting to Other Oncologists Is ‘Life-Changing’
But it’s the ability to communicate with colleagues—using ASCO’s online membership directory, the ASCO LinkedIn group, ASCOConnection.org, and other networking tools—that many international members find most exciting.
“Being able to access all of the ASCO benefits, like ASCO University and meetings sponsored by ASCO, has been just amazing,” said Dr. Mak. “But what has been really life-changing has been connecting with other ASCO members in other developing countries, and learning how they overcome some of the obstacles and barriers that we face.”
One of the cornerstones of ASCO membership is networking, which can and often does lead to collaboration on research, patient care, and other initiatives. International Corresponding members enjoy networking opportunities with other ASCO members around the world.
Jose Duarte, MD, a surgical oncologist who focuses on breast cancer at the Instituto Del Cancer in Paraguay, said he most appreciates how the International Corresponding category has unified oncologists of various subspecialties in his country. Now they connect in ways they never had before.
“My experience with this membership category is strongly positive because it provides a local umbrella for doctors to get together and share knowledge,” said Dr. Duarte. “We knew each other before, but we never worked together in ways that were multidisciplinary. ASCO’s message is all about being multidisciplinary, and that has really helped us and our patients.”
Dr. Duarte, president of the Paraguayan Society of Surgical Oncology, is one of only 50 oncologists in Paraguay and has been an International Corresponding member since 2005. He is now a member of ASCO’s International Affairs Committee.
A Growing Membership Category
As cancer has no language and knows no borders, ASCO resolved to make the science, programs, and products it offers accessible to every corner of the world. The idea for the International Corresponding category came from Margaret A. Tempero, MD, 2003–2004 ASCO Past President, who charged the Membership Committee with determining the feasibility of creating a category for physicians in countries with limited resources who may be unable to afford Full membership.
ASCO membership is popular among those in who focus on cancer care in countries outside the United States; international members make up approximately 30% of ASCO’s membership. International Corresponding members make up about 2.34% of ASCO’s membership, and the category grows on average 48% each year.
Conquer Cancer Foundation Grants
There are two main Conquer Cancer Foundation grants geared toward early-career ASCO members who reside in a country that is in the low, lower-middle, or upper-middle income category on the World Bank List. They are IDEA and the Long-term International Fellowship (LIFe) award.
For IDEA recipients, ASCO pays for travel to the Annual Meeting and pairs each recipient with an ASCO member mentor. After the meeting, recipients travel to their mentor’s institution for three days in order to shadow them and learn directly from their work. In 2011, ASCO launched the IDEA in Palliative Care award, which uses the same application criteria but is targeted specifically to those who focus on palliative care.
The LIFe Award is geared toward early-career oncologists and allows recipients to spend a year with a mentor at their institution in the United States or Canada.
Dr. Patel, from Ahmedabad, India, was thrilled to be an IDEA award recipient this year. “Training under my mentor, Dr. Brian’O Sullivan at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada, was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” said Dr. Patel. “And that way of learning continues. Through my ASCO membership I get an ongoing opportunity to interact with other ASCO members with whom I can share my views and gain from their experience regarding their attitude towards cancer management in different countries of world.”
Those outside the United States who have become ASCO members say they find that the value of ASCO membership becomes apparent very soon after joining. Dr. Mak, for one, says she expects her ASCO membership to continue broadening the scope of her practice and thus improving the level of care that she’s able to bring to her patients.
“I’ve only been a member for a few months, but already I’ve benefitted so much,” said Dr. Mak. “And I believe many more benefits are to come, which will certainly help me to be a better doctor and clinical investigator, but will also allow me to bring knowledge to the medical community here in Sao Paulo, and to better help the people of Brazil.” ■
© 2013. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.