ASCO is now accepting applications for its 2023 International Development & Education Award (IDEA) program, which provides support for early-career oncologists in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and allows for knowledge sharing with more senior ASCO members. By pairing IDEA recipients with a leading member mentor, the goal is to develop long-term relationships that could improve cancer care in recipients’ home countries. Applications are due October 31, by 11:59 PM (ET).
The Society also offers a variation of this award, the International Development and Education Award in Palliative Care (IDEA-PC), which provides medical education in palliative care, assists with career development, and helps establish strong relationships with leading members in this field who serve as scientific mentors to each recipient. Upon completing the one-year program, IDEA-PC recipients are expected to share the knowledge and training they received with colleagues in their home countries.
Mentorship is the foundation of the IDEA and IDEA-PC programs, as 2020 IDEA recipient Dr. Sami Saleem Omar of Iraq emphasizes: “The mentorship program is a great and precious project that is conducted by ASCO. It helps and guides us with a more experienced and knowledgeable person, who can focus our education planning and goal setting. For me, a sentence from an expert is equal to reading a chapter of a book.”
Both yearlong programs begin each year at the ASCO Annual Meeting in June. The IDEA cohort flies to Chicago on the Wednesday before the meeting and spends the following day visiting McCormick Place, the meeting venue, ahead of the crowds, learning about ASCO, and attending a group dinner. On the Friday the meeting kicks off, they attend educational and scientific sessions and then the Conquer Cancer Grants and Awards Ceremony. On Sunday evening they are invited to the President’s Reception and then Monday night attend a World Oncology Leaders reception with a keynote address by the ASCO president. Throughout their time in Chicago, the IDEA cohort has an active WhatsApp message chain where they can reach out to fellow participants and ASCO staff with questions, observations, offers to meetup for coffee and meals, etc. On Tuesday, the program members travel to their mentors’ respective institutions to spend several days learning alongside the mentors.
“I always have this little speech that I give in Chicago on the first day where I tell them, ‘You are all strangers, and you’re from different places and backgrounds, but in five days, at the end of your time in Chicago, you’re all going to be really good friends, and they always are,’” said Associate Director, International Affairs Vanessa Sarchet, who oversees the program. “It’s such a dynamic group plus the excitement of being at the meeting and learning all of the newest research—it’s so fun.”
Applicants must meet the following criteria to qualify for the IDEA and IDEA-PC:
- Be a current resident of a country classified by the World Bank as an LMIC and have limited resources to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting
- Not have completed more than one academic year of “formal training” (for instance, attended medical school or participated in internships, fellowships, or residency programs) in a country classified by the World Bank as high income
- Be a Full Member (including the discounted dues category for developing countries) or a Member-in-Training of ASCO or submit a membership application in one of these categories
- Be less than 10 years past their oncology training program
- Be fluent in English (both writing and speaking)
- Have a demonstrated interest in integrating palliative and supportive care into his/her institution; this may be shown by attending courses on the topic, participating in related clinical activities, etc. (IDEA-PC Applicants)
“The IDEA program has been a life changer for many young oncologists from the developing world, including myself,” said Gevorg Tamamyan, MD, a 2013 IDEA recipient and past chair of the IDEA Steering Group from Armenia. “By changing the life of physicians, the program has been making positive changes for thousands of patients and their families. A patient in a rural hospital somewhere in an LMIC doesn't even know that his physician was one of the IDEA recipients and maybe because of this they are able to get the most updated and appropriate care.”
Other Information for Early Career ASCO Members: