Next week I start my tenth year of writing Front Lines. I stole the idea of a weekly communication tool from a mentor, Dr. George Sledge. In my opinion, Dr. Sledge was one of the most effective presidents ASCO has seen, partly, if not largely, because he liked to communicate with the ASCO membership.

We sent out the first of these posts on July 19, 2013, a few months after the start of my tenure as SWOG group chair. That first message was titled “An update on SWOG’s approach to studying rare cancers.”

Initially, the weekly posting had the snappy name of “SWOG Blog.” We came up with “The Front Line” a few months later. Here’s a snapshot, courtesy of the Wayback Machine, of what early Front Lines looked like on SWOG’s then website (we have come a long way, haven’t we, and alas I no longer look like a young but hairy Brad Pitt).

Reading back through some of my earliest posts, the language was a bit more formal, almost stodgy at times. But I was able to relax more as the months went by.

From the start, this column has been a primary venue for engagement between SWOG leadership and membership. “Engagement” here implies two-way communication, and a significant role of this blog has always been to solicit feedback from our members – on policy, priorities, performance, and more.

This goal is front and center in this description of the endeavor from year 1:

A key feature of these messages is that they often directly solicit feedback from members on specific issues …. Three months into this initiative, the two-way communication has been robust and has proven to be a key tool both in keeping members in tune with their cooperative group and in keeping the Group Chair abreast of the needs and priorities of constituents.

Most of this member feedback comes to me via email, but a fair amount is face to face (or via the pandemic equivalent).

In its first year, the Front Line was a great vehicle for informing members of my priorities and initiatives as a new group chair, and it still serves as a means for me to share my vision of where SWOG should be and how we might get there.

Over the years, though, it’s also served as a space where we could collectively weather the slings and arrows … of epic hurricanes, of changeable government funding priorities, of global pandemics that forced us to change our ways of doing just about everything.

The blog features some set pieces – group meeting preview and follow-up posts twice a year, regular meet-the-executive-officer and meet-the-advocate profiles to introduce you to folks you really ought to know, and congratulations to some of our best and brightest on awards, fellowships, or acceptance to our Young Investigators Training Course.

It’s also been a forum for welcoming new personnel, saying farewell to outgoing leaders, and remembering legends. It has tracked the amazing development of The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research over the years and has helped us spread the word on practice-changing results of SWOG research.

Particularly in the early years, I sometimes invited other members of SWOG’s senior leadership to write guest postings. Looking back, I see the name of Dr. Anne Schott – then SWOG’s deputy chair – appeared fairly often in the byline.

Finally, it’s allowed me to share with you some of my less orthodox SWOG-related endeavors, such as taking 200,000 SWOG trial volunteers up Kilimanjaro.

I’ve amassed well over 400 posts since 2013, roughly 300 of which are still accessible on And I plan to continue amassing.

Year 10 will open with a few changes: we’ll start with a new photo, and in the coming weeks we’ll roll out some behind-the-scenes technology updates to make email delivery more reliable and efficient.

As I did in year 1, I want to emphasize that engagement in this venue should be two-way – Front Line works best when you respond to what you read and convey that response to me.

As I have many times previously, I encourage you to email me directly at SWOG is your group, and you can – should – make yourself heard. So here’s a specific question for you: how can we make Front Line even better in the coming years?

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