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ASCO's State/Regional Affiliate Program recently awarded grants to 13 state societies that participated in a new program designed to provide support for important projects that were proposed by the affiliates and will be implemented by April 2007. The structure and purpose of the projects vary greatly in aim and scope.
The Washington state society, for example, is reaching north to work to use their grant money to assist Alaska in establishing a new society (until now Alaska has not had a state society). The Florida society has chosen to establish a statewide research network. While these projects differ substantially in substance, they each provide a tangible benefit to the cancer community in that state or region.
Peter Paul Yu, MD, serves as the chair of ASCO's Clinical Practice Committee (CPC) and guides the working group that oversees the grant selection process. “We give the grants as seed money for new ideas and to encourage the state societies to build on those ideas. ASCO values the state societies tremendously,” says Dr Yu. “…We recognize that many things are done best on the state level; such as dealing with state legislators and dealing with local payment and regulatory issues. The state societies can provide the detailed understanding that is needed in their own environment.” The fundamental quality shared by the successful applicants is that they provide some durable benefit to the state society. Some of them also have the added potential to act as a model for other state societies.
John V. Cox, DO, FACP, the immediate past chair of the CPC, concurs. “A lot of issues that affect medical oncologists and the patients are local ones,” he says.
Currently there are 46 state societies. Fourteen societies applied for grants through ASCO last year, and 13 received funding. Dr Yu encourages state societies that did not apply for a grant last year to do so this year.
In October, state society leaders had the opportunity to hear more about the grant program at the State Affiliate Leadership Conference held in Washington, DC. Applications for future grants were made available at the conference and attendees also were invited to hear about the experiences of the 2006 grant recipients. During one breakout session, attendees were afforded the occasion to present their own grant ideas for discussion by the ASCO grant reviewers.
Dr Yu adds that all 46 state affiliates will receive a grant application via e-mail. The grant application is also available online at ASCO.org. While the maximum award for 2005-2006 was $5,000, that amount has been raised to $10,000 for 2006-2007. Applicants must submit an application and provide a detailed budget before being considered for funding.
Dr Cox emphasizes that the committee respects the diverse nature of the state societies. “We recognize that the 46 state societies look and act differently. Some are already highly organized and active; some less so. We hope that these grants can provide more tools for the organizations that are striving to invigorate themselves. The toolbox of useful things that the state affiliate programs will have at their disposal can grow as a result of the funded efforts,” he says. He adds that the potential for broad national application of a proposed activity adds to its appeal, though such potential is not a requirement.
Here are three examples of projects that have received funding:
Mariana Lamb, executive director of the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California (MOASC), explains that her state received large numbers of Hurricane Katrina survivors. This experience spurred MOASC to propose a project to help displaced oncology patients receive care with as few interruptions as possible. She points out that Los Angeles ranks high on the list of US cities likely to be impacted by a natural disaster.
MOASC's proposal involves two phases. Phase I will lead to the creation of a compact information card (a trifold item, much like a vaccination card) that patients can carry with them. Kept current by their oncologists, the card would convey essential information about their treatment plan (diagnosis, type of treatment, cycles, etc) and note any unusual circumstances.
Phase II, which Lamb calls “a Jetsons concept,” takes the idea into the digital realm. “We foresee that participating physicians will send this kind of information to a secure, HIPAA compliant repository. If a disaster occurs, the receiving physician could access this repository.” Having records available via the Internet will be the best approach, she acknowledges. However, practicality demands that the paper system be instituted first.
The Maryland/DC Society of Clinical Oncology will use the grant to host a meeting that will address issues about cancer and cancer therapy that especially interest ordinary people in their area. Peter Graze, MD, says that they anticipate this being “the first of a series of such annual meetings” designed for community outreach.
The Oklahoma Society of Clinical Oncology, led by executive director Mary Jo Wichers, received funding to partner with the Texas Society of Medical Oncology in organizing a four-state meeting to include Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.
That meeting will allow the four states to begin a partnership prior to their reorganization into a common Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) Jurisdiction. (Within the next 4 years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will reorganize all 50 states into 15 such MACs.) Both societies (Texas and Oklahoma) received a $5,000 award.
“We have never partnered with another state before,” Wichers explains. She adds, “You can do bigger things when you work together. It gives us more power in dealing with Medicare and with private insurance companies.” The CPC recognized the value of such regional efforts and encourages state societies to work together in conceiving ideas for grants.
Several CPC members have expressed a wish that more state societies will seek grants in the coming round. Many leaders of societies that did receive funding in the first round encourage their peers to follow suit.
Wichers notes that the application process was “pretty simple.” Here's some advice from two awardees, Wichers and Lamb:
To provide financial support to state/regional affiliates as they seek to enhance the scope of their activities, ASCO has created the State Affiliate Grant Program. The following recipients for the inaugural grant period, which runs from April 1, 2006, through March 30, 2007, have been selected by ASCO's State Affiliate Working Group:
The above societies were acknowledged at the State Affiliate Presidents' Reception at ASCO's 2006 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
Each of ASCO's 46 State/Regional Affiliates has the opportunity to apply for a grant during the next cycle. A program description and grant application form can be found online at www.asco.org/stateaffiliates.