Feature

ASCO president-elect wants ‘new and different viewpoints at the table’

Photo of Howard Burris
Howard A. Burris III

Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO, will aim to “bring everyone together” when he begins a 1-year term as ASCO president in June.

Burris — president of clinical operations and chief medical officer for Sarah Cannon Research Institute, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, and an associate of Tennessee Oncology PLLC, where he practices medical oncology — has been an ASCO member since 1991.

He has served on the board of directors for ASCO and its Conquer Cancer Foundation, and he also served as chair of several of the society’s committees.

HemOnc Today spoke with Burris about how his experience prepared him for the role as ASCO president, what he hopes to accomplish during his term, and the ways ASCO’s membership can help him and his colleagues maximize the society’s potential.

 

Question: What was your reaction upon being selected ASCO president?

Answer: Initially, my reaction was one of great excitement. This was something that I have thought about for years, and it is the right time in my career. I was humbled and honored when friends and colleagues reached out to congratulate me, which helped to confirm that I had made the right decision to seek the position.

 

Q: What excites you most about the opportunity?

A: This is a great opportunity for me to have an impact on curing cancer and to help the organization. We are at a place in cancer care where an organization like ASCO has both a great opportunity and equally great responsibility to bring stakeholders together to try to find better solutions to the problems facing our field, including cost of cancer care, an adequate workforce to care for our patients, and the overwhelming number of new therapies and targets.

 

Q: How has your background helped to prepare you for the role of ASCO president?

A: I have a background as a military physician, academic physician, drug developer and clinical researcher. I came to Nashville about 20 years ago, at which time I continued my clinical research career and was in private practice in the community oncology arena, where I developed and grew the program at Tennessee Oncology PLLC and became a physician executive. Over the past 20 years, I have helped grow Sarah Cannon Research Institute’s drug development program and phase 1 clinical trials. Having this wide view of all the various components is something that I think is unique and has helped me to prepare for this new role.

Q: What specific priorities do you hope to address as president?

A: One of the things that I hope to work on as ASCO president is to try to bring everyone together. One of my specific priorities will be to help connect colleagues. I was thinking about this as I chose my team of ASCO chairs. I wanted individuals who would look to bring different viewpoints to the ASCO initiatives — for example, having the patient voice heard during our meetings, figuring out how to have a good dialogue with pharma and payers, and to have regulators at the table, including the FDA. I am also thinking about the other important physician leaders, and better engagement from surgical and radiation oncologists. I am thinking about the nurses, because they are an important part of the story and we need to have a closer bond with them. I would really like to have new and different viewpoints at the table to try to solve some of the problems we have in the field of oncology.

 

Q: What do you consider the greatest challenge in cancer care today , and how can ASCO help meet that challenge?

A: At the top of my list are the cost of cancer care, access to care, how to continue to provide high-quality care with the increasing number of cancer survivors and identifying patients at high risk for cancer. This all comes down to figuring out how to best educate the members of the oncology community so we are making the best decisions, choosing the best therapies, and evaluating and staging our patients appropriately.

 

Q: Is there a specific area of practice or policy in which you would like to see ASCO become more involved?

A: As the world is getting smaller with technology, ASCO has a place outside of the United States. Global oncology will be key to get involved with so that we will continue to be successful as an organization.

 

Q: How can ASCO's membership help you and the society s other officers succeed and maximize the association s potential?

A: One way is to continue to be an active voice. We have a core group of members who participate in some of the committees and as educators at meetings, but I think the opportunity is there for members to speak up and let us know their problems. ASCO staff and leadership are already getting members to participate in brief surveys on a variety of issues. The more data we have on the greatest challenges facing people, the better we will be able to serve the membership.

Q: What are your expectations for the oncology field for the next 5 and 10 years?

A: I think the excitement will be around treating the individual patient. During the next 5 to 10 years, the pattern of treatment will be much more focused on the biology of the patient’s tumor as opposed to the site of origin of the cancer. This will lead to many more cancer survivors. We are just beginning to understand how to utilize some of these therapies, and the advancements in survival will continue to be tremendous. It will be a great success story. – by Jennifer Southall

For more information:

Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO, can be reached at Sarah Cannon Research Institute, 1100 Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Blvd., Nashville, TN, 37025; email: howard.burris@sarahcannon.com.

Disclosure: Burris reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Photo of Howard Burris
Howard A. Burris III

Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO, will aim to “bring everyone together” when he begins a 1-year term as ASCO president in June.

Burris — president of clinical operations and chief medical officer for Sarah Cannon Research Institute, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, and an associate of Tennessee Oncology PLLC, where he practices medical oncology — has been an ASCO member since 1991.

He has served on the board of directors for ASCO and its Conquer Cancer Foundation, and he also served as chair of several of the society’s committees.

HemOnc Today spoke with Burris about how his experience prepared him for the role as ASCO president, what he hopes to accomplish during his term, and the ways ASCO’s membership can help him and his colleagues maximize the society’s potential.

 

Question: What was your reaction upon being selected ASCO president?

Answer: Initially, my reaction was one of great excitement. This was something that I have thought about for years, and it is the right time in my career. I was humbled and honored when friends and colleagues reached out to congratulate me, which helped to confirm that I had made the right decision to seek the position.

 

Q: What excites you most about the opportunity?

A: This is a great opportunity for me to have an impact on curing cancer and to help the organization. We are at a place in cancer care where an organization like ASCO has both a great opportunity and equally great responsibility to bring stakeholders together to try to find better solutions to the problems facing our field, including cost of cancer care, an adequate workforce to care for our patients, and the overwhelming number of new therapies and targets.

 

Q: How has your background helped to prepare you for the role of ASCO president?

A: I have a background as a military physician, academic physician, drug developer and clinical researcher. I came to Nashville about 20 years ago, at which time I continued my clinical research career and was in private practice in the community oncology arena, where I developed and grew the program at Tennessee Oncology PLLC and became a physician executive. Over the past 20 years, I have helped grow Sarah Cannon Research Institute’s drug development program and phase 1 clinical trials. Having this wide view of all the various components is something that I think is unique and has helped me to prepare for this new role.

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Q: What specific priorities do you hope to address as president?

A: One of the things that I hope to work on as ASCO president is to try to bring everyone together. One of my specific priorities will be to help connect colleagues. I was thinking about this as I chose my team of ASCO chairs. I wanted individuals who would look to bring different viewpoints to the ASCO initiatives — for example, having the patient voice heard during our meetings, figuring out how to have a good dialogue with pharma and payers, and to have regulators at the table, including the FDA. I am also thinking about the other important physician leaders, and better engagement from surgical and radiation oncologists. I am thinking about the nurses, because they are an important part of the story and we need to have a closer bond with them. I would really like to have new and different viewpoints at the table to try to solve some of the problems we have in the field of oncology.

 

Q: What do you consider the greatest challenge in cancer care today , and how can ASCO help meet that challenge?

A: At the top of my list are the cost of cancer care, access to care, how to continue to provide high-quality care with the increasing number of cancer survivors and identifying patients at high risk for cancer. This all comes down to figuring out how to best educate the members of the oncology community so we are making the best decisions, choosing the best therapies, and evaluating and staging our patients appropriately.

 

Q: Is there a specific area of practice or policy in which you would like to see ASCO become more involved?

A: As the world is getting smaller with technology, ASCO has a place outside of the United States. Global oncology will be key to get involved with so that we will continue to be successful as an organization.

 

Q: How can ASCO's membership help you and the society s other officers succeed and maximize the association s potential?

A: One way is to continue to be an active voice. We have a core group of members who participate in some of the committees and as educators at meetings, but I think the opportunity is there for members to speak up and let us know their problems. ASCO staff and leadership are already getting members to participate in brief surveys on a variety of issues. The more data we have on the greatest challenges facing people, the better we will be able to serve the membership.

PAGE BREAK

Q: What are your expectations for the oncology field for the next 5 and 10 years?

A: I think the excitement will be around treating the individual patient. During the next 5 to 10 years, the pattern of treatment will be much more focused on the biology of the patient’s tumor as opposed to the site of origin of the cancer. This will lead to many more cancer survivors. We are just beginning to understand how to utilize some of these therapies, and the advancements in survival will continue to be tremendous. It will be a great success story. – by Jennifer Southall

For more information:

Howard A. “Skip” Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO, can be reached at Sarah Cannon Research Institute, 1100 Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Blvd., Nashville, TN, 37025; email: howard.burris@sarahcannon.com.

Disclosure: Burris reports no relevant financial disclosures.