LeBlanc Honored for Advocacy, Named Education Chair for ASCO24
As the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) was wrapping up this week, Chief Patient Experience and Safety Officer at Duke Cancer Institute Thomas LeBlanc, MD, MA, MHS, FAAHPM, FASCO, was already in planning mode for next year's meeting.
LeBlanc, a Fellow of ASCO who's been volunteering with the society for a decade, has been designated chair of the ASCO Annual Meeting Education Program Committee.
This prestigious appointment comes as the new president of ASCO, Lynn M. Schuchter, MD, FASCO, pledges to focus her presidential year on “The Art and Science of Cancer Care: From Comfort to Cure” whose key goals include a focus on palliative and supportive care.
"Under his leadership as an expert in palliative care and quality of life, we are developing educational sessions for the 2024 ASCO Annual Meeting that will include presentations by experts in symptom management, palliative care, and how to have effective serious illness conversations with patients about goals of care," said Schuchter, speaking about LeBlanc, in an interview with The ASCO Post.
"Incoming President, Dr. Lynn Schuchter, has chosen a presidential theme that is all about the continuum of care, including palliative and end-of-life care issues as well as exciting curative treatments, so we’ll be working together to integrate that type of content much more across the whole conference than in prior years," said LeBlanc. "Palliative care integration in cancer care has been my life’s work, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to infuse it into the world’s largest oncology conference!"
The hematologic oncologist, palliative care physician, and associate professor of Medicine and of Population Health Sciences, was also recently named an ASCO Advocacy Champion, President's Circle (May 2023) for his "active engagement" in ASCO's advocacy activities.
Advocacy Champions are "ASCO volunteers who have made meaningful contributions to the Association’s advocacy activities throughout the year to ensure that every patient with cancer has access to high-quality, equitable cancer care no matter who they are or where they live. Advocates speak with federal lawmakers and agencies, send personalized letters to Members of Congress through ASCO’s ACT Network, engage with state lawmakers on policy priorities at the state level, and host site visits for lawmakers in their home states and districts."
“You can see their influence through the advancement of key legislation that provides robust federal funding for cancer research, avoids Medicare reimbursement cuts, streamlines prior authorization, and increased access to clinical trials," said Jason Westin, MD, FACP, chair of ASCO’s Government Relations Committee. "While the work isn’t done, we can trust that our advocates will remain dedicated in their pursuit of legislation that supports the delivery of high-quality and equitable cancer care.”
In 2019, LeBlanc went to Capitol Hill to argue that "blood cancer patients are being put in a terrible position at end of life: being forced to choose between hospice and receiving palliative blood transfusions that can address palliative needs related to breathlessness, bleeding, and profound fatigue ... and improve quality of life." In collaboration with the American Society of Hematology, LeBlanc and a colleague Jerome Seid, MD, advocated for enhancements to the hospice care model in hematology, leading to the introduction of a bipartisan bill in the Senate in 2021, S. 2566.
LeBlanc has been active in ASCO since 2013 when he began a three-year term as a member of the Ethics Committee. He went on to serve as chair of that committee (2017-2018). During 2016-2017, he was track leader of the Patient and Survivor Care Scientific Program Track of the ASCO Annual Meeting, and from 2017 to 2019 he was a member of the Planning Committee for the ASCO Palliative & Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium. He has also served on ASCO’S Scientific Program Committee: Patient and Survivor Care Track (2016-2018) and the Taxonomy Subcommittee (2016-2019). In April 2021 he was named a Fellow of ASCO (FASCO), which "honors ASCO's most active members for their extraordinary volunteer service and dedication to ASCO." This year he wrapped up a four-year term with ASCO’s Supportive Care Guidelines Advisory Group (2019-2023).
In addition to his volunteer roles with ASCO, LeBlanc has served in a leadership or membership capacity in various other cancer-focused and palliative-care focused national committees and organizations, including serving on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guideline Panel on Acute Myeloid Leukemia (2018-2019) and chairing the Academic Council of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM).
He is associate editor of BMC Palliative Care and is a member of the editorial advisory boards of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management and the Journal of Palliative Care.
He is also the current chair of the Scientific Review Committee of the NIH/NINR-funded Palliative Care Research Cooperative Group (PCRC) and immediate past-chair of the Palliative and Supportive Care Special Interest Group, American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy. He’s been a member of both the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Palliative Care Working Group, and The Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Ethics Committee since 2017.
LeBlanc’s work in palliative medicine for blood cancer patients led to his recognition as an “Inspirational Leader Under 40” by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) in 2015 and “fellow” status from AAHPM in 2016, followed four years later by an AAHPM Early Career Investigator Award. In 2018, he received an international Clinical Impact Award from the European Association for Palliative Care for his clinical research on integrating palliative care into blood cancer care.
LeBlanc earned both his MD and an MA in Philosophy from Duke in 2006 and stayed for his internship (2006-2007) and residency training (2007-2009) in Internal Medicine. From 2010 to 2011, he served as chief medical resident at the Durham VA Medical Center. He went on to complete fellowships at Duke in Hospice and Palliative Medicine (2012) and Medical Oncology (2013). In 2013 he joined the Duke faculty (Department of Medicine, Division of Hematologic Malignancies) as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 2017, then was awarded tenure in 2022. He's also been an associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences since 2019.