1. Butcher, Lola

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SAN DIEGO-Some initial thoughts about ASCO's first Quality Care Symposium (

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* May this be the first of many. My breakfast companion on Day 2 said he was sure the Quality Care Symposium ( will grow to be a standard feature of ASCO programming: "Someday I will say, 'I attended the first [quality symposium] when only about 500 people attended and everyone was in the same room all the time; and now, look how it's grown, with now several thousand people here," he said.



When I spoke with a long-time ASCO leader 12 days after the symposium ended, he was still gushing about it. He was heartened by both the attendance and the quality of the presentations. In fact, he said it was one of the best meetings he had ever attended--and he has been attending ASCO meetings for 30 years. "Didn't you think the vibe was fantastic?," he said.


That reminded me of an unsolicited email message I received from one of the presenters the day after the conference: "I thought the meeting was SO outstanding, exceeding my highest expectations!! The major collegial, interactive networking and sharing among academic and community practitioners and other professionals in our field was unique and dynamic."


* "This could be a palliative care conference." I overheard that remark during one of my I'm-just-sitting-here-minding-my-own-business covert listening sessions. The comment was made by an oncologist who is interested in palliative care to a nurse practitioner who is active in the Center to Advance Palliative Care. Her response was to the effect of "This is better because it's not just the true believers here. At this conference, we have an opportunity to change the way people think." They were right: Palliative care was highlighted as a component of high-quality care in so many presentations and posters that an observer would assume that comprehensive palliative care is common practice in cancer care. May it eventually be so.


* Who needs a BFF? Several years ago, a big insurance executive told me he would start trusting oncologists when they stopped pumping chemotherapy into cadavers on their way to the morgue. I thought of that comment many times as I saw insurers and oncologists present on the many ways they are working together to improve patient care and lower costs. I heard no snide remarks that insurers care only about money or that oncologists prescribe high-cost drugs as a way of lining their pockets. One insurance executive-Lee Newcomer, MD, of UnitedHealthcare-was on the planning committee for the meeting and was frequently on the podium; Jennifer Malin, MD, of Wellpoint presented twice. They were treated as partners, not pariahs. How times have changed.



If you missed the event, check out the abstracts or the presentations. Watch for my full articles about the meeting, and I hope to see you at next year's Quality Care Symposium!!