Now Is the Time for Action in Oncology

Oncology Fellows, September 2020, Volume 1, Issue 1

Over the years, Oncology Fellows has covered many topics including emerging areas of clinical care, the business of medicine, and wellness and burnout, among others.

To our hematology/oncology trainees:

I am delighted to serve as the editor of this outstanding publication that connects trainees to hot topics in oncology. Over the years, Oncology Fellows has covered many topics including emerging areas of clinical care, the business of medicine, and wellness and burnout, among others. We will continue to publish content that covers these areas, but we also welcome feedback from YOU, the stakeholders. What do you want to read about? What resonates with you, our readers? We invite you to submit your suggestions to Managing Editor Jason Harris at

As your editor, I will write about emerging subjects that pertain to all of us in the hematology-oncology community. Thus, I want to take this opportunity to discuss this moment in time. Take a minute and think about what you were doing, your concerns, your worries, this time last year. We had not yet experienced the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and the subsequent economic challenges it created, the resurgence of active civil unrest, or questions about the proper role of policing in our society. Any one of those events would cause massive social upheaval, and we’ve seen all of them in 2020. Plus, we’re heading into a very important election period in November, and I haven’t even mentioned the murder hornets.

How does this apply to you as a fellow? As a physician, you are entrusted with the physical and, in part, emotional welfare of a community. You serve as a role model, and thus your words, your gestures, even your facial expressions hold great import.

Trainees are immersed in the business of being a trainee. This is incredibly demanding and emotionally draining at times. When I was a trainee, I did not become a part of the larger world outside of the hospital and the fellowship program. I was immersed in the “shelter” of medicine.

However, and I say this with some amount of shame, I recognized that health care inequity and racial injustice existed at that time, but that I did not name it or call it out as wrong. At this critical juncture, as I write this in the summer of 2020, none of us have the space or time to remain sheltered. All of us must play a role in how we move forward as a society. All of us must participate irrespective of party affiliation.

What does this mean? I urge you to become an active participant in this larger world. By virtue of being physicians, you are all community leaders. A great leader once noted that the distinction between a good leader and a great one is the ability to know when compromise is inappropriate. It is normal to live with fear, but we need to examine our fears a bit further. Do we fear that someone who is different threatens us? Are we afraid of speaking up? Do we fear self- examination or feedback? If we live in fear, we are our own prison guards. I urge you to not set limits on your involvement in this world. I also urge you to remain an advocate, not only for yourself, but for all.

Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.” Sometimes swimming against the current is hard, and compassion fatigue is easy. This is not the time to give up. This is the time to not only aggressively pursue your education, a more traditional training focus, but also to recognize your own unconscious bias, speak up when you see injustice, encourage people to wear a mask, and register and take the time to vote. It is a seminal moment for your own personal and professional development. Avail yourself of every growth opportunity, find your voice, and define your sustainable path.