Cancer impacts all of us, but clinical trials to improve cancer care do not currently serve all of us Equitably
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. Detailed below is the current landscape of DEI at SWOG and our ongoing efforts.
Realizing DEI In Leadership
“Efforts to ensure widespread SWOG engagement with diversity, equity, and inclusion—DEI—must start at the top.” – SWOG Group Chair, Dr. Charles Blanke
In the SWOG strategic plan 2019-2024, one aspect of the Group’s vision is to remain a national and international leader in practice-changing clinical research through diversity and inclusion in leadership. In pursuit of that goal, SWOG engaged a firm, Pope Consulting, to assess where leadership currently stand with DEI attitudes, practices, policies, and resources; and to help the Group plot its path forward.
In phase 1 of the work, Pope performed a maturity analysis to assess the current state of and vision for DEI within SWOG leadership. This phase included 15 hour-long interviews with a select set of SWOG executive officers, committee leaders, and senior staff to gather information as part of an analysis of DEI structures and systems in the group. Pope’s subsequent recommendations fell within four “pillars,” or focus areas: strategies, structures, systems, and practices. Below are some of the improvements currently underway.
vice chair for DEI & professional integrity: Dr. Don S. Dizon
Named to the role in 2022, Dr. Dizon is charged with developing a vision about DEI and how it can be integrated to all aspects of the work at SWOG, both internally and externally. He is tasked with oversight of DEI initiatives to support SWOG’s strategic plan, including leading evaluative research on policy changes, and holding an ombudsperson position, as a neutral and confidential resource for SWOG members. Working with stakeholders, he has developed the current landscape of DEI working groups within SWOG, emphasizing that this is our starting point, with much more that we can aim for to achieve our mission: equity.
View Dr. Dizon’s spring 2023 Update [DOWNLOAD SLIDES]
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Meet the SWOG Fellow for DEI
Now in her second year, Patricia Robinson, MD, continues her work in making DEI part of the intentional work we do at SWOG. Following completion of her program, she will transition to her role as Special Adviser to the Vice Chair. The projects she will lead in the coming year aim to help our committees think about DEI as part of trial development, through a DEI Checklist. In addition, she will work with our Statistics Center to develop a DEI dashboard, so sites have the ability to evaluate their own effectiveness in enrolling a diverse study volunteer population. Robinson’s efforts also include continuing to mentor our DEI Champions, an effort we discuss further later on this page.
TeamScience@SWOG, Module 6: Improving Diversity and Representativeness of SWOG Cancer Research Network Clinical Trial Participants
Through the combined efforts of Rick Bangs, MBA, and Allison Caban-Holt, PhD, chairs of the Patient Advocate and the Recruitment and Retention Committees at SWOG, the implementation of Module 6 has activated. These efforts are centered around increasing diversity in cancer trial participants, which will enable us to implement the necessary organizational changes to ensure members are offered the equal opportunities to do so.
To build additional capacity for the work, a team of DEI Research Champions were brought on board for 2022. In addition, a DEI monitoring committee was established.
DEI Champions work with research committees and study teams to identify action plans to increase diversity and equity in research participation. They help provide tools, evidence, and strategies to reduce disparities, improve study outcomes, and expand SWOG’s DEI methodology. Champions share strategies for research program modifications and policies.
DEI monitoring committee
The SWOG DEI Monitoring Committee (DEIMC) has been formed as the engine for the vast task ahead of us. They are at the tasked with critically assessing SWOG internally and – together with the Recruitment and Retention Committee – to evaluate the participation of under-represented minorities in our clinical trials. Their mission is to critically look at the composition of SWOG at the group, committee, and subcommittee levels, to bring transparency to our selection processes, and to ensure that DEI principles inform all of the work we do. Part of this work will be to assess the status, timelines, and progress of all DEI projects and to prepare a report delivered to the vice chair of DEII on an annual basis.
DEI Leadership Council
The DEI Leadership Council will advise the Vice Chair and help prioritize activities on a go forward basis. Because a vision and direction cannot be the voice of just one person, this group will ensure that multiple perspectives are considered and that we are purposefully iterative in our efforts. We will do this by listening to membership and all stakeholders, including those volunteers who participate in our trials.
Funding Opportunity: NCORP Pilot Grant Program
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. Three pilot studies were announced in 2022, and up to two more may be awarded in 2023.
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.
Related News & Publications:
- Announcing SWOG’s Vice Chair for DEII (10/7/2022)
- A Year-1 Update from SWOG’s DEI Fellow (7/29/2022)
- A More Representative Clinical Trials Day (5/20/2022)
- A Vice Chair for DEI & Professional Integrity (11/19/2021)
- Workshop on Being More Inclusive SWOG Leaders (10/29/2021)
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Permeating SWOG (5/28/2021)
- New Initiative Aims to Improve Representation in Cancer Clinical Trials (5/10/2021)
- Trials Don’t End Disparities for Poorest (3/17/2021)
- Second Crucial Conversations Panel Addresses DEI in Cancer Trials
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion: Year of Action (1/29/2021)
- NCI Trials Enroll More Black Cancer Patients (6/22/2020)
- The SWOG Commitment to Racial Justice (6/19/2020)
- Caban-Holt Leads Recruitment and Retention (1/31/2020)
- SWOG Results Recast Rural-Urban Disparities (8/24/2018)
- Access to Care May Reduce Cancer Disparities (8/17/2018)