A group of advocates sitting together and talking

Attending ASCO: Insights for Advocates

During the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, I interviewed Jeannine Salamone, ASCO’s Director of Patient Advocacy (pictured below), about the organization’s advocacy programs. Below is that interview.

An image of Jeannine Salamone, ASCO’s Director of Patient Advocacy

The importance of conferences like ASCO

Dusty:“Will you tell us a little about the American Society of Clinical Oncology and its Annual Meeting and why these are important to patient advocates?”

Jeannine: “ASCO is the world’s leading professional organization that represents oncology professionals who care for people with cancer. We have about 45,000 members worldwide. Our Annual Meeting is the largest oncology conference in the world. ASCO’s mission is conquering cancer through research, education, and promotion of the highest quality patient care. And ASCO’s vision is a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy.

“When it comes to patient advocates, we welcome their attendance and engagement at our meetings. We encourage advocates to come and learn about the greatest science, latest research in cancer and to take that education and knowledge back to their communities and their organizations. We want them to share what they’ve learned with the greater oncology community as well as with patients, survivors and caregivers.

“So, it’s important that advocates come and that we make the meeting accessible and affordable for them. We offer discounted registration, discounted exhibit space, and of course, scholarships through our Conquer Cancer Foundation.”

The Conquer Cancer Foundation

Dusty:“Let’s talk a little more about the scholarship process. When I was relatively new to cancer advocacy, several people asked me, "Are you going to ASCO?" But I totally missed the very narrow window of opportunity to apply for a scholarship. Can you talk about the process and what you’re looking for in an application?”

Jeannine: “Our Conquer Cancer Foundation secures support for the program throughout the year. That is a very rigorous process, in terms of reaching out to companies to encourage them to support the program. Once we get some funding underway, then we know we’re going to have a scholarship program for the ASCO annual meeting. We develop an application with a clear set of criteria and eligibility for advocates. The window, in terms of applications, is usually two weeks in March, Advocates can apply for a scholarship online through www.cancer.net." (See details from the 2018  application here.)

"We send out communication early in the year so that advocates know it’s coming up. We ask them what their financial need is; why they need support to come to the meeting. They have to demonstrate that financial need. Then they have to share with us what sort of advocacy experience they have, what sort of training they have had, what sort of organization they represent. Is it a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization? Does it provide things like programs, services, information, and support for people with cancer, and other questions. They are required to share their resume or bio sketch and include that with their application.

“It’s a pretty quick process. During that two-week period, we secure all the applications. They all go through review for about a week. We try to give advocates enough money to defray some of their costs. But our scholarships do not cover all of the costs—unfortunately. We stretch the funding as far as we can. We also award scholarships to international advocates. It’s wonderful to see these folks come from all over the world. We’re so glad to have them here.”

Learn what ASCO looks for in a candidate, what to expect at an ASCO conference and more in Part 2.

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