Don S. Dizon, MD

SWOG and The Hope Foundation, in collaboration with Genentech, launched a multi-phased, multi-year initiative to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) among SWOG leadership, membership, and throughout its cancer clinical trials. These efforts are being led by the Vice Chair for DEI and Professional Integrity, Don S. Dizon, MD, named to this role in 2022. 

Updates from the Vice chair

Detailed below is the ongoing work to embed the landscape of SWOG with DEI principles.
Updated April 2024.

Congratulations to our new Champions of Equity and Engagement in Research (ChEER)

Jessica McDermott, MD

Under the leadership of DEI Champion, Jessica McDermott, MD, who is also an Assistant Professor, Medicine-Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, we embarked on the newly minted ChEER program to provide greater foundational support and mentoring to any SWOG community member interested in developing skills in DEI as it relates to the clinical trial enterprise. In April we named our two inaugural ChEER participants. The newly named participants are: Jonathan Sommers, Patient Advocate, and Jyotsana Parajuli, PhD, MGS, RN of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte School of Nursing. They will be joining key faculty in Phoenix, AZ in May for foundational lectures and brainstorming of ideas.

DEI Is Embedded As Part Of SWOG’s Mission And Values

Jonathan Sommers

There continue to be questions about how SWOG will exemplify its commitments to equity, diversity, and integrity. To reiterate, the strategic vision of SWOG will not characterize DEI as a stand-alone pillar. Rather, it will be woven into all that we do within the organization, extending to all that we do for and with people with cancer. Importantly, the realization of the principles of DEI will need everyone’s participation, rather than the job of a select few, because DEI is about belonging. It is the idea that each of us has something to contribute to help move the bar in the prevention, screening, treatment, and support for people with cancer.

Jyotsana Parajuli

To that end, a DEI taskforce led by Dana Sparks, M.A.T., Director of Operations at SWOG, has completed a review of our policies and procedures from a DEI Lens. Our first task was to determine what a “DEI Lens” consisted of. I am grateful for this group for clearly delineating the principles by which this work occurred at SWOG, which represents the unique aspects of DEI at the level of a cooperative group. Special thanks to the members of our task force: Bernard Parker, MD; Jared Acoba, MD; Christa Braun-Inglis, PA-C; Desiree Walker; and Joël Pointon. For anyone interested, our criteria are included in the PowerPoint on this page, which as always, is available for download (below).

The major revisions to our policies were presented to the SWOG Board of Governors in April 2024, during the live semi-annual meeting in Seattle. We have codified the position of Vice Chair of DEI and Professional Integrity, and also include the process by which issues related to Professional Integrity can be brought forth and resolved. Our next step will be to apply this lens to our standard templates, to ensure that no one is excluded from the trials we develop.

View Dr. Dizon’s spring 2024 SWOG group meeting update [DOWNLOAD SLIDES]

Contact SWOG’s Vice Chair for DEII

The Take Action Symposium

The spring Take Action Symposium, sponsored by the Recruitment and Retention Committee, covered equity in clinical research as it relates to the LGBTQ+ Community. We hosted luminaries, including Elektra Paskett, PhD, Marion N. Rowley, Professor of Cancer Research at The Ohio State University, Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology’s Program Cancer Control Program Director and PI of the Alliance NCORP Research Base, as well as Charles Kamen, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Surgery, Cancer Control and Psychiatry at the University of Rochester. Also included this year was a special screening of the film, Trans Dudes with Cancer, followed by an inspiring Q&A with the film’s directors, Yee Won Chong and Brooks Nelson. Heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Allison Caban-Holt and her team for a successful event.

SWOG Member Profiles Project

“Who is SWOG?” Yes, we come from various institutions, some affiliated with universities and comprehensive cancer centers, others reflecting the community oncology research programs. We are clinicians, scientists, research personnel, advocates, and others who share in the pursuit of progress in the care of the person with cancer. We work in different parts of the country and the world and reflect both rural and urban communities.

Beyond that, though – who are we? We hope to bring an intersectional framework to answer that question. It’s important to ask not only, “how many SWOG members are Asian?” As we strive for equity, we need the ability to look at ourselves in our multiple dimensions: “how many SWOG members are Asian and gay and male?” Part of the intent is to forge a sense of communities within SWOG. More important though, and perhaps to secure our future, it is to ensure that who we are and what we offer to our patients is both inclusive and representative of the world around us.

As of April 1, the first phase of the profiles project is live, and SWOG members have been invited to log in to contribute their individual details. In addition to questions about professional roles, areas of concentration and interest, and work location, the profile also asks for demographic information, including age, ethnic background, veteran status, and accessibility needs. The next phases of the project, which will include questions on gender identity and sexual orientation, should be deployed later this year.

Minority/Underserved Recruitment Initiative: A Pilot Grant Program For Improved Outreach & Accrual

In spring 2021, we kicked off this NCORP-focused initiative with a 2-hour virtual symposium for information gathering and shared learning, serving as a springboard for research ideas to test promising accrual strategies across network sites. 

This continues to be an active opportunity for anyone interested in furthering the reach of clinical trials at SWOG. The next deadline for applications is June 1.

View Pilot Grant Opportunity

The symposium featured 2 rounds of site presentations, each followed by a brief panel discussion. Participating sites included: (session 1) Hawaii Minority Underserved NCORP, Upstate Carolina NCORP, Columbia University MU NCORP, Montefiore Medical Center MU NCORP, and (session 2) New Mexico MU NCORP, Stroger Hospital of Cook County MU NCORP, Puerto Rico MU NCORP, Baptist Memorial Healthcare/Mid South MU NCORP.

Compiled Symposium Slide Presentations

NCORP Special Symposium: Improving Representation in Cancer Clinical Trials from The Hope Foundation on Vimeo.

Made Possible with Generous Support From:

And through a general research grant by Astellas & Pfizer, Inc.