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The Front Line
The Front Line: Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG Chair


SWOG 101: The Group Chair's Office

Aug 7, 2015 - The Group Chair's Office is making a move -- just down to the bottom of Marquam Hill here in Portland. On Wednesday, August 19, GCO will pack up notebooks, spreadsheets, and laptops (and all of my 200+ action figures) and take up new offices along with several other groups from the Oregon Health & Science University.

It's a good thing. For the first time since I took office as SWOG chair in 2013, my Portland team at OHSU will be all gathered in one place, and will able to work together, face-to-face, every day. As you already know, efficient and easy collaboration is key to SWOG.

The Group Chair's Office owns a critical chunk of the organization. We're responsible for leading SWOG's vision and direction, overseeing our operations, delivering our messages effectively, releasing our publications appropriately, and ensuring that that the tax dollars we're given to conduct cancer research are spent wisely and tracked properly. We also try and make sure those dollars keeps coming in!

As Chair, I am honored to lead our group of nearly 6,000 physician researchers -- and almost as many research staff -- who fight cancer in so many different ways. SWOG trials have led to FDA approval of at least 12 significant cancer drugs, and informed cancer prevention in important ways, even when negative. SELECT, for example, debunked the notion that selenium and Vitamin E reduce prostate cancer rates. My team works to ensure trials can be run -- and to help our Executive Officers and me set our future direction.

It's a great job -- and I've got a great team. Here's a fast introduction to my Portland office, in case our readers need to contact anyone:

  • Valerie Durling, executive assistant: Valerie books conference calls and hotel rooms, creates presentations, ships packages, keeps calendars, and sends and responds to email. She helps make group meetings happen and keeps committees organized. Nothing would get done on time without Valerie!
  • Wendy Lawton, communications and public relations manager: Wendy is responsible for keeping SWOG members and staff connected to each other, and to the public, through our website, Twitter and YouTube, email updates, print publications, event communications -- even these blog posts.
  • Pat Mize, accounting specialist: Pat oversees the SWOG federal study activity payment program. It's an important one, ensuring that you and your organization get paid, with grant funds, for clinical trial participation. Pat also manages another pot of money: Federal funds awarded for travel to our twice-yearly group meetings.
  • Amber Roberts, grants and contract manager: Amber keeps us in the black (or is it green?). She oversees SWOG's federal grants and contracts portfolio, coordinating our pre- and post-award activities. Put another way, Amber helps bring the money in and manages it once it arrives.

Three important members of the office remain in Michigan.

  • Patricia Arlauskas, publications manager: Pat is responsible for our main work product: Scientific publications. She coordinates about 140 articles and abstracts each year highlighting SWOG trial results, and ensures our publications comply with all reporting obligations. Pat also oversees our publications database.
  • Nathan Eriksen, chief of administration: Nathan is, essentially my Chief of Staff, and he could not be more valuable. Nathan oversees our entire body of work, including the Group Chair's Office in Portland, the Operations Center in San Antonio, and the Statistical Center in Seattle. Nathan also serves as secretary at The Hope Foundation, our philanthropic champion. His knowledge of SWOG is broad and deep, and his administrative and budgetary skills are top-notch.
  • Edith Van Putten, contracts administrator: Edie negotiates contracts with our pharmaceutical company collaborators and all other private organizations that support our trials. Edie also manages access to our key assets by processing requests for SWOG specimens and the use of SWOG study data.

So that's the team. We're here to serve. Call on us!


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