Dr Denis Lacombe, Director General of the the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), an independent cancer research organisation whose mission is to coordinate and conduct international translational and clinical research to improve the standard of cancer treatment for patients, answers Boardroom’s questions on how the association caters to younger members.
How do you connect and recruit younger members?
EORTC has access through its membership to very large networks across Europe. Key opinion leaders are members of the EORTC. Aiming at younger clinical investigators but with some degree of maturity, we have identified ‘rising stars’ in partnership with EORTC Disease Orientated Group officers based on their preliminary track records and publications. Altogether, we have identified 35 Early Career Investigators (ECI) across nationalities, disciplines and tumor types.
What do you think their specific needs are? Do they have a ‘typical’ profile?
Indeed, selected people have already been selected based on their motivation to ask THE extra question and run THE extra mile. They are curious for new knowledge, to transform it in therapeutic progress, they are not afraid to take challenges forward and have autonomy and drive to propose pragmatic solutions while keeping their objective for patient centric benefits.
They need to receive comprehensive training how to become leaders in a rapidly evolving society and how to run complex multisdiciplinary research internationally and set up fruit full cooperation across stakeholders. How to navigate across European regulations and policies is also a key element.
How do you engage them? How do you make them feel concerned and involved?
We have built a comprehensive programme running over 2 years where they receive training to acquire leadership skills. In addition, they are given autonomy to design the future of our organisation around critical themes which are central to our scientific strategy. Their proposal will be presented to our board. They are invited to join hands-on activities ranging from courses to participating in committees. But mostly, there are 5 3-days in-person sessions through which the full scope of challenges are presented, discussed and debates are organised with representatives of key stakeholders. The programme has been registered for Continuing Medical Education (CME). But above all, this is a very interactive place to meet across disciplines and nationalities to build the European cancer clinical research network for tomorrow.
Can generational differences be an issue within the culture of the association?
Yes, indeed. Seniors also need to learn to associate with the younger generation. There is an EORTC requirement for each research protocol to have an ECI as co-principal investigator. The forms and the methods also evolve with increasing role of technologies, internet, applications which modulate the landscape. Despite their professional quality, we also need to take into account the expectations of the younger generation for a more balanced professional and private life.