As I announced at the general plenary session at last month’s group meeting, SWOG has opened a search to fill a new leadership position: vice chair for diversity, equity, inclusion, and professional integrity (DEII – sorry there’s no clever acronym).

Over the past year, SWOG and The Hope Foundation have launched a number of long-term initiatives to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the group – working with a consultant on strategies to diversify our leadership, naming our first DEI Career Development Award fellow to help guide efforts to diversify our trials building on TeamScience@SWOG Module 6 training, funding DEI champions to work with our committees and study teams to make our trial participant populations more representative, hosting an NCORP special symposium on site-level strategies to expand representation in trials (Pilot Grant applications due Dec. 1), and more.

These DEI efforts are all having an impact, but to maximize that impact, we need a member of the leadership team overseeing the strategic alignment of our portfolio of efforts. This person must have the power to effect change, so must be at the highest levels of SWOG leadership, holding a position that would also make clear that these goals are among SWOG’s highest priorities.

As the leadership team discussed this new position, it became clear that to be truly effective, the person in this role also needs to be able to address issues of professional integrity – specifically issues in the realm of professional behavior and misconduct. 

So our new vice chair will also serve as an ombudsperson within the group, acting as a neutral, confidential resource for SWOG members with complaints about unethical professional behavior, while our professional review committee will continue to monitor research integrity in the traditional areas of falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism. 

What else will the new vice chair do? Here’s a partial list:

  • Guide the development of a vision and a strategy to ensure a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and ethical behavior at all levels of SWOG leadership (and put that strategy into policy)
  • Educate SWOG leadership on inclusive practices and policies in selecting committee leaders, supporting study chairs, and creating opportunities for mentoring young investigators
  • Help build a culture that can guide chairs in reimagining how they apportion leadership roles within their committees
  • Develop partnerships to help increase the diversity of our pool of investigators
  • Represent the group to external organizations and communities in working to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Provide strategic direction on training and research initiatives in areas of cultural competency, gender differences, disability issues, and sexual harassment

As we’ve discussed this position, a number of colleagues have made the point that we already have a leader in this area – the chair of our recruitment and retention committee, Dr. Allison Caban-Holt. I’ve discussed this question with Dr. Caban-Holt, and she agreed there is room for both roles. In similar fashion, we have both a vice chair and an executive officer for translational medicine, with complementary but non-overlapping duties.

While SWOG is breaking new ground, creating such a position seems to me the logical next step in realizing our DEI goals. Earlier this year, ASCO named its first diversity and inclusion officer, and the latest NCI funding opportunity announcement for cancer center support grants requires that applicants include a detailed plan to enhance diversity. I suspect SWOG will see similar sorts of requirements in applying for future NCI grant renewals. We’ll be prepared.

Our formal search committee, chaired by Dr. Dawn Hershman, vice chair for NCORP research, and co-chaired by Jo Horn, Hope president and CEO, will soon start to identify promising candidates to approach. We welcome your suggestions. Write to me directly at oynaxrp/ng/bufh/qbg/rqh.

(Here's a link to the job posting.)

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