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The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair
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Meet Executive Officer Dr. Julie Gralow

Jan 23, 2015 - This is the first in a periodic Front Line series profiling SWOG's Executive Officers, which I hope will give you some insight into why I selected each as a key member of my advisory team. This week I start with Dr. Julie Gralow, Executive Officer for breast, lung, and gynecologic cancers.

"Cancer is about living, not dying. I enjoy helping my breast cancer patients take control of their health through leading-edge treatments, education, exercise, nutrition, and a positive mental attitude." This statement of patient care philosophy, cribbed from Dr. Gralow's own Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) profile page, is a great place to begin. Leading-edge treatments, education, exercise, and a positive attitude are key elements of her professional success as an oncologist and researcher.

Leading-edge treatments
Developing and refining the next generation of cancer treatments are, of course, SWOG's primary areas of focus -- and in the breast cancer research arena, Dr. Gralow's contributions are second to none. A SWOG member for almost 20 years now, she has been an author on more than 70 SWOG publications, has enrolled more than 150 patients to SWOG studies, and has been Study Chair or Study Co-Chair on eight of our clinical trials. Most notable among these may be the S0307 study, one of the largest treatment studies SWOG has ever led, which evaluated the use of bisphosphonates to reduce rates of recurrence in patients with breast cancer. Her extensive research/ leadership experience also includes 13 years as Vice-Chair of our Breast Committee.

Education
Whether as a spokesperson for ASCO or an expert commentator on the PBS NewsHour, clips of Dr. Gralow presenting authoritative cancer information in her trademark clear, calm, upbeat manner are all over YouTube. She engages in this mission daily via social media, where the education goes both ways: she's been a pioneer in using Twitter to engage patients and advocates in the embryonic stages of clinical trial development. Even more personally relevent to my upcoming Kilimanjaro trip, she has educated me in the area of high-altitude mountaineering (!), having herself climbed that and many other serious peaks.

Exercise
Clearly one to lead by example, Dr. Gralow serves as Team Physician and Medical Advisor -- as well as fellow adventurer -- to Team Survivor Northwest, which engages women cancer survivors in outdoor group activities such as mountaineering (see above), hiking, snowshoeing, triathlon training, and dragon boating (think extreme crew). She has also co-authored a book on breast cancer and exercise.

A positive attitude
Most illustrative in this category may be a short list of selected achievements that collectively go a very long way in helping cancer patients and their caregivers keep a positive attitude. Dr. Gralow has:

  • Co-founded a traveling exhibition of art by women who have faced breast cancer (still going strong after 18 years)
  • Led a group of SCCA clinical staff and breast-cancer survivors in editing a resource book of information for patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Founded the Women's Wellness Clinic at SCCA to promote the health of survivors of breast and gynecologic cancers, and of women at high risk for cancer
I could continue to list Dr. Gralow's accomplishments for a long time, but it's probably best I stop there; this post has passed the 500-word mark. The bar for our yet to be profiled Executive Officers has been set rather high!

 

 
     
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