As a medical fellow who dreamed of caring for women with lung cancer, Narjust Florez, MD, was advised to steer clear of thoracic oncology. After all, her colleagues said, it was a male-dominated field.1
Nonetheless, Dr. Florez became a thoracic medical oncologist and associate director of the Cancer Care Equity Program at the Dana-Farber Brigham Women’s Cancer Center, Boston. She also co-hosts IASLC’s award-winning podcast, Lung Cancer Considered.
Dr. Florez has been something of a disruptor in thoracic oncology, and her efforts to gain equal footing for women in the field have laid the groundwork for the upcoming “Gender Equity in Thoracic Oncology” session. The session will take place from 13:45-14:45 SGT, on Sunday, September 10, in Nicoll 1 at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Center.
“Learning from each other is very important, and so is giving women a voice,” said Dr. Florez, who will co-chair the session with IASLC President Heather Wakelee, MD. “Women are often blamed for the disparities they face, and we want to support them in discussing systematic solutions that do not include ‘fixing’ women who are not broken, but instead focus on fixing a system that keeps excluding them.”
Gender Equity in Thoracic Oncology
13:45-14:45 SGT, Sunday, September 10, Nicoll 1
The session will feature a talk by Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, a global advocate for the control of cancer and non-communicable diseases who is honorary president of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer and a member of the United Nations University High Level Advisory Committee for Gender and Health Hub.
The mother of a cancer survivor, Princess Dina is a patron of the International Society for Pediatric Oncology and a member of the World Health Organization Expert Group for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer. She also served as president of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) from 2018-2020—the first Arab and first non-medical person to be elected to that prestigious global post.
The agenda also includes talks by other successful women in thoracic oncology, a panel discussion, and small roundtable conversations with audience members.
Dr. Florez said she considered it vital to pick panelists not only from a variety of disciplines including surgery, medicine, and radiation, but also from a variety of nations, including Australia, Colombia, Greece, Singapore, and the US.
“I’m from Latin America, where machismo and misogyny are prevalent,” she said. “We know of regional differences, and each woman may have experienced discrimination in a different way: from discriminatory practices for medical school acceptance in Asia2 to a lack of support or zero maternity leave for female physicians in the US.”
As moderator, Dr. Florez plans to delve into the obstacles female clinicians face in thoracic oncology, including:
- Assumptions that motherhood makes them incapable of increased responsibility, or that being child-free means they should work every holiday.
- Being overlooked for opportunities to present phase II or III trial results or to serve as senior authors, even when they’ve recruited the most patients into a clinical trial.
- Lack of salary equity.3
- Limited invitations to participate in industry advisory boards.
- Lack of grant funding.
In 2019, Dr. Florez and colleagues Deborah Doroshow, MD, PhD; Angel Qin, MD; and Christine Bestvina, MD began advocating for a dedicated gender equity session at WCLC. That year, under Dr. Wakelee’s leadership, the IASLC launched the now annual WCLC event.
Past talks have attracted not only women, but also male and nonbinary allies, Dr. Florez said.
“People of all degree levels from industry, academia, and private practice should attend because women are 52% of the population, and because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
1. Palikuca S. Men outnumber women in many specialties in the US and U.K. The DO. Published Oct. 22, 2018. Accessed August 4, 2023. https://thedo.osteopathic.org/2018/10/men-outnumber-women-3-to-1-in-some-specialties-in-the-u-k.
2. Haynes S. 2 More Medical Schools in Japan Have Admitted to Discriminating Against Women. TIME. Published December 12, 2018. Accessed August 4, 2023. https://time.com/5477556/japan-medical-school-discrimination-new-cases.
3. Scott D. Nationwide, male doctors get paid $100,000 more than female doctors. Vox. Published August 6, 2018. Accessed August 4, 2023. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/6/17657994/men-women-doctors-salaries-pay-gap-voxcare.