In a large organization like SWOG, turnover in leadership is inevitable. Today I note the handoff of two important leadership batons. Luckily, SWOG has top-quality people at all levels, allowing me to appoint truly outstanding, well-prepared candidates, to carry those batons forward without breaking stride.

First, I extend our most sincere thanks to Alejandro Mohar, MD, ScD, who has stepped down from the role of executive officer for international affairs, in which he has served since 2018. Dr. Mohar energized our research efforts in Latin America. He is largely responsible for successes in the SWOG Latin America Initiative (SLAI), which has brought sites in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Peru on board as member institutions (with sites in Brazil and Uruguay also in the works). 

This is also a wonderful opportunity to welcome Mariana Chavez Mac Gregor, MD, MSc, as SWOG’s new executive officer for international affairs. Dr. Chavez Mac Gregor is an associate professor with the Departments of Health Services Research and Breast Medical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Within SWOG she has served as study chair of S1207, a trial evaluating the addition of everolimus to endocrine therapy in patients with breast cancer, a concept she developed, in part, in SWOG’s Young Investigator Training Course. Dr. Chavez Mac Gregor is also a recognized leader in other areas, including her appointment to the ASCO board of directors. She also serves us in other ways, being a member of The Hope Foundation board. 

In her new EO role, she’s committed to maintaining the momentum built by Dr. Mohar and says her immediate priority is to learn more about where SWOG’s international efforts stand and to ensure continuity in those initiatives. In fact, in her first week as EO she’s already been contacted by a site – in Milan, Italy – interested in becoming an international member of SWOG.

As part of her longer-term vision, she says, she wants SWOG’s work with institutions in other countries to help improve the research infrastructure outside of the U.S. Her goal is to help local investigators in those countries better understand the nature of the U.S. cooperative group system, develop a higher level of rigor in their research, and take advantage of training opportunities SWOG offers. Ultimately, leaders in their fields from those countries should become more active participants in SWOG disease committees, she believes, becoming principle investigators proposing trial concepts that can also be relevant for the U.S.

Correspondingly, she wants to help SWOG investigators become more aware of the opportunities for opening SWOG studies abroad. Extending our reach to institutions internationally, she says, is great way not only to include more racial/ethnic minorities within SWOG trials but also to enroll patients who have relatively rare diseases that are more prevalent in other countries.

Chavez Mac Gregor is well positioned to expand SWOG’s involvement in Latin America – she was born and raised in Mexico City, attended medical school there, and worked early in her career with mentors at the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología (INCan – Mexico’s NCI). She has strong family and professional connections in Mexico but has also collaborated extensively with researchers in other Latin American countries.

The rare combination of her knowledge of SWOG, her understanding of the challenges facing health care systems in Latin America, and her extensive relationships with key investigators from countries across the region should prove invaluable in helping her succeed in this position. And I know she will be stellar!

A New Melanoma Chair

The other leadership transition I want to report here is that of chair of our melanoma committee. Kenneth Grossmann, who has steered that committee since 2019, is stepping down. During his tenure, he oversaw the completion of S1404, which was reported out at ASCO earlier this summer, and he paved the way to a new generation of melanoma studies in the committee.

Sapna P. Patel, MD, of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, will become chair of the melanoma committee as of September 15, and she and Dr. Grossman will co-lead the committee session at the group meeting next month.

I selected Dr. Patel for some of the same reasons I appointed Dr. Chavez Mac Gregor as our new EO – she has extensive experience in her area within SWOG, she is knowledgeable and deeply respected by her peers, and she’s widely acknowledged as a leader in the field. 

Dr. Patel has already been doing exemplary leadership work in the melanoma committee, and her appointment will maintain and accelerate the momentum of our melanoma research endeavor. I wish her and Dr. Chavez Mac Gregor great success in their new roles!

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