SWOG has labeled 2021 our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) year of action, and in keeping with that pledge, I have more DEI action to report. Our goals for this year include improving diversity among both SWOG leaders and SWOG trial participants.

The spring plenary included presentations on this topic, and I wrote recently about our work with Pope Consulting (still ongoing) to improve DEI within leadership. In fact, you can read about all of our DEI efforts on The Hope Foundation website.

Today I have an update on our efforts to increase DEI among our trial participants.

The need to have cancer trials accrue participants who reflect the full diversity of survivors of cancer is well established. The quality of the evidence that comes from our studies depends in part on this.

To help achieve this end, SWOG Recruitment and Retention Committee Chair Dr. Allison Caban-Holt and Patient Advocate Committee Chair Rick Bangs, with the support of The Hope Foundation and a grant from Genentech, are engaging and funding the work of five DEI champions. Recruitment of these champions kicks off today!

DEI champions will work with research committees and study teams during the protocol development process, to build evidence-based action plans that ensure each trial accrues a group of participants that reflects the full diversity of the study population. 

As part of this work, DEI champions will be coached to take a lead role in implementing our TeamScience@SWOG training program’s module 6 within research committees and study teams. Module 6 focuses on practices for improving diversity and representativeness across the full lifecycle of SWOG trials.

So what kinds of candidates are we looking for? It’s key that champions have a background in research and have experience with clinical trials. They should be familiar with the NCI clinical trial programs SWOG is part of – the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) – although they do not need to already be SWOG members. 

Candidates should also have a record of successfully working with underrepresented populations and tackling health disparities. Above all, they should have a passion for increasing DEI in research and strong knowledge of the evidence on which strategies to achieve this can be built.

Each DEI champion will work with specific research committees and will receive an honorarium in recognition of their time commitment.

With an application deadline of September 24, the goal is to be able to review applications and select DEI champions ahead of our fall group meeting. Further details on the role and an application are available on the Hope website.

Consider this a call to action: if the goals above speak to you, and the qualifications at least look familiar, visit the Hope website to learn more. Then apply! If you know of colleagues who would be perfect in this role, please reach out to them and let them know about the opportunity (you could forward this Front Line to them as a start). Again, candidates need not be SWOG members to apply, and there are no specific degree requirements – we need champions from a range of roles, who share our passion for DEI and would bring a track record of real-world success to the DEI champion role.

I look forward to reporting  later how this program bears fruit.