5 minutes reading time (935 words)

Creating an Inclusive Environment in Your Oncology Practice With Mark Fleming, MD

At the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Mark T. Fleming and colleagues, from the Virginia Oncology Associates, presented their poster about their initiative to foster a culture of inclusion in an independent community oncology and hematology practice that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and blood disorders.  

Oncology Data Advisor: Welcome to Oncology Data Advisor. I am here with Mark T. Fleming, a Medical Oncologist from the Virginia Oncology Associates, the US Oncology Network, who is at the ASCO 2022 Annual Meeting to present his work on the impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion training in an independent community oncology practice. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Fleming.

Mark Fleming, MD: Thank you for having me.

Oncology Data Advisor: Thanks. What is the importance of including diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in private practice medical facilities?

When you set out on a journey to educate and train your staff to recognize unconscious bias, ultimately, it's going to benefit all of our patients.

Dr. Fleming: It's ultimately going to benefit our patients. When you set out on a journey to educate and train your staff to recognize unconscious bias, ultimately, it's going to benefit all of our patients. What we're learning here at this ASCO Annual Meeting is that they talk about equity, equity in terms of diversity within clinical trials. And so teaching your staff will ultimately benefit in the optimal patient care, because we know disparities exist.

Oncology Data Advisor: Can you tell us about your initiative to foster a culture of inclusion at the Virginia Oncology Associates?

Dr. Fleming: In an effort to create that environment, we created an inclusion council made up of staff, physicians, nurses, and frontline staff, to provide guidance for the group. We came up with a training program. We utilized an outside group to create an educational session, and our staff was able to choose between two sessions, one looking at unconscious bias, the other looking at how to combat unconscious bias or microaggression. We reported on what our staff learned. Our staff learned that A, it was a valuable experience, that the majority of our staff learned something, and B, that training helped foster a more inclusive environment.

Oncology Data Advisor: How did the employees participating in the program respond to the training program?

Dr. Fleming: Very favorably. There wasn't a 100% favorable response, but I think it showed there was a voice that was heard and that we are able to tap into that voice and create a safe environment. You need to create a safe environment for your staff, which will create a safe environment for your patients

Oncology Data Advisor: How can diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts be further implemented?

Dr. Fleming: What I love about what we did is that this is portable to other practices. You take a motivated group of staff, including leadership, ideally. It would be great if it's led by physicians, because staff tends to listen to and be influenced by physicians. And so, take a motivated group of individuals and lead that effort by saying, "This is important. This is a core value of our practice." If it's a core value that's translated to your staff, it's going to translate to your patients. Your patients will see that we value this and that we want to make sure that you are in a safe environment. And our staff has been trained, just as they've been trained on safety of delivering chemotherapy, on the safety of conducting proper clinical research.

Oncology Data Advisor: There's been a lot of talk at ASCO about increasing the diversity in clinical trials, and this seems to be a necessary first step in that process.

Dr. Fleming: I'm glad to see ASCO heading on that path. I'm really proud of our practice, that an independent practice has sought on this journey. And I think it's a journey, not a destination, that it's a continued education and training, and I'm really proud of the work that we're doing.

Oncology Data Advisor: It's really great work. Thank you so much.

Dr. Fleming: Thank you.

About Dr. Fleming

Dr. Mark T. Fleming is a Medical Oncologist with Virginia Oncology Associates (VOA) and the Medical Director of US Oncology's Genitourinary Research Committee. Dr. Fleming specializes in cancers of the bladder, kidney, prostate, and testicle, and he is heavily involved in cancer research starting with phase 1 novel drug development. Dr. Fleming is a principal investigator for clinical trials, locally and nationally, and the coauthor of two recent articles leading to new drug approvals for prostate and bladder cancer. He has contributed multiple book chapters and journal articles to publications such as Clinical Cancer Research, Nature Clinical Practice Oncology, Update in Clinical Therapeutics, and Clinical Prostate Cancer. Dr. Fleming, a national thought leader in genitourinary cancers, has presented his work nationally and internationally and is currently serving as a part of ASCO's Practice Guidelines Implementation Network, on Advisory Medical Boards for multiple pharmaceutical companies, and as a co-founding member and Past President of the Hampton Roads Prostate Health Forum.

For More Information

Fleming MT, Lewis T, Lyons K, et al (2022). The impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion training in an independent community oncology practice. J Clin Oncol (2022 ASCO Annual Meeting Abstracts), 40(suppl_16). Abstract 11057. DOI:10.1200/JCO.2022.40.16_

Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor. 


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