Category: ASPO Blog

Karen Basen-Engquist

Strange Days Indeed: a note from ASPO President Karen Basen-Engquist

Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Strange days indeed…

–John Lennon


Most of us are now living and working in ways that we could not have imagined a few weeks ago. As I write this my wish for you is that you and your family stay healthy, both physically and mentally. These are stressful times, and we all need to take care of ourselves and each other.

As you know by now, we have cancelled the in-person 2020 ASPO annual meeting and have converted it to a virtual meeting. We feel it is important to keep our science moving forward, and we wanted to provide meeting attendees with the opportunity to present and discuss their work. Rather than try to cover all the annual meeting content in just a few days, we are extending the conference into #ASPOweek, with content presented throughout the week. During #ASPOweek we will hold webinars of the four symposia and selections from the AD/PL meeting, and will host a virtual poster session, with posters available online and presented during ASPO’s very first Twitter conference to be held Wednesday to Friday. We also are planning “Meet the Professor Zoom calls” for students, trainees, and junior faculty to meet with senior investigators. During the following weeks we will host webinars of the SIG breakfast sessions, the junior members’ SIG sessions, and the paper sessions. All of this content, with the exception of the Twitter conference, will be available only to those who have registered for the meeting. Furthermore, since we know that many of you are extremely busy right now helping your institutions, communities, and families deal with COVID-19, the webinars will be recorded and made available on YouTube via a login that will be provided to those who have registered for the meeting.

Interaction among meeting attendees is one of the most valuable parts of the meeting so I hope you will take the opportunity to comment and ask questions even when the presentations are virtual. In addition, we have set up a Slack workspace for ASPO. Slack is a communications and collaboration platform that allows for online conversations and discussions among members. Our presenters can use Slack to post or link to articles or other resources related to their presentation, and meeting attendees can use Slack to pose questions to presenters or communicate with other meeting attendees. Channels are being set up in the ASPO workspace for the SIGs, the Community and Science program, the AD/PL meeting, and each of the symposia. You will receive an invitation to join soon.

Finally, and this announcement is rather overdue, but the response to COVID-19 overtook everything else… We have a new management company! The selection committee chose HollandParlette, a small award winning firm that has experience with managing other small scientific organizations. The committee was impressed with their experience and their well-organized proposal and presentation. They were extremely responsive to requests for information during the interview process and have remained so over the past month. In fact, ASPO’s new management team has stepped in and has been instrumental in helping us deal with the cancellation of the in-person meeting and the conversion to a virtual meeting. ASPO’s new Executive Director,Nicole Brandt , and Kortney Incorvaia, the Membership and Communications Manager, have been working extremely hard organizing the virtual meeting and have brought terrific expertise and innovative ideas to the table. Our Meeting Manager, Stephanie Garwood, was instrumental in negotiating with the hotel in Tucson to help minimize the cancellation fees we were required to pay and has also worked hard on the virtual meeting. I am extremely grateful to them for their efforts. I also want to thank Julie McGregor at the University of Wisconsin, who was managing the meeting as we transitioned from Heidi Sahel’s management to HollandParlette. She did a great job preparing us for what was about to be one of our largest meetings ever!

A virtual meeting wasn’t what we originally envisioned for our 2020 meeting, but I’m hopeful that it will still provide us with an opportunity to share our science and interact to move the field of cancer prevention forward. As an added benefit, we will learn important lessons about providing virtual content to our members, lessons that we can apply throughout the year.

Stay safe, stay healthy,



Happy New Year!

I hope the holidays provided you with a break from your work and time to spend with friends and family. Our work is vital, but everyone needs a break from the action from time to time!

The fall and winter have been busy for ASPO. Kate Weaver and Tim Rebbeck, along with the rest of the program committee and abstract reviewers, have been diligently scoring abstracts. We received 267 abstracts this year, the second highest number in ASPO history. The program that the committee has planned is packed with great programming – check out the latest version. I look forward to seeing you in Tucson!

One new feature in the program is a Community & Science program for the Community Outreach and Engagement staff from the cancer centers. Applications for this program are due on Jan 31, and the application is on the ASPO annual meeting page. Participants in the Community & Science program will have dedicated programming on Sunday afternoon and at a Monday breakfast session, and they will be participating in the rest of the meeting as well – including a special lunch session on Tuesday that will provide early stage investigators an opportunity to get feedback on their research from Community & Science participants. We also will be asking for investigators to serve as partners for the Community & Science participants, to facilitate bi-directional learning between community-engaged staff and cancer prevention researchers. Watch your email and the website for an invitation to apply for this opportunity.

We have also been busy recruiting a new management company for ASPO. Our RFP was made public in November, and we had quite a robust response – 24 applications. I am confident that we will be able to find a great company to help ASPO move forward. I expect we will have a company selected and starting the transition process by the time of the annual meeting. I want to thank our executive committee (Elena Martinez, Peter Kanetsky, Sandi Pruitt, Li Li, and Shine Chang) and members of the ad hoc selection committee (Carolyn Fang, Les Robison, Amy Trentham-Dietz, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, and Hedi Sahel) for the wisdom and time they have provided to this critical project.

Finally, I want to add my voice of thanks to Heidi Sahel for her years of service and dedication to ASPO. She has ably served our organization, not just with efficiency, organization, and expertise, but with warmth and friendship that has been so important to the culture of ASPO and the sense of belonging expressed by members. Heidi, we will miss you greatly, but are happy for you as you start this next chapter. We wish you fun and relaxation, and more winters spent under warm sunny skies!

Karen Basen-Engquist

Happy Summer, ASPO!

Happy Summer, ASPO!

I wanted to start out by telling you how excited I am to be your president for the next two years. ASPO has always been an organization that has meant a lot to me, because of the science it has exposed me to and the networks it has helped me develop. I know I hear similar things from many of you, and our past president Peter Kanetsky outlined this nicely in his recent presidential address. I am honored to be helping to support that legacy and look forward to continuing to help ASPO sustain its mission of fostering “the development of investigators and other professionals involved in cancer prevention and control, and the exchange and translation of scientific information to reduce cancer burden.” My priorities for the next year are to develop a plan for ongoing management of ASPO, increase the activity and visibility of our communication channels (i.e., Twitter, ASPO pages in CEBP, website, and Facebook page), and to develop a plan to increase membership. I welcome your input on ASPO’s direction and activities over the next two years. I will be periodically posting blogs on the website to keep you updated on ASPO activities. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (k_basenengquist), comment on the blog post, or send me an email at [email protected].

I’m still coming off the high of the recent ASPO meeting. Many thanks to Jasmin Tiro and Hazel Nichols for their leadership of the program committee, and to all the program committee members for their hard work in putting a great program together. The program evaluation indicated that 94% thought the meeting was excellent or above average. We are now in the midst of planning for the 2020 meeting in Tucson, with the program committee ably led by Drs. Kate Weaver and Tim Rebbeck.  They just held the first program committee about a week ago, and discussed some great ideas for symposium topics. If you have ideas for the meeting that you’d like to share with the program committee, do so as soon as possible – they have to get much of the program planned before the middle of July so that we can put in the NCI conference grant. The program committee members are Tomi Akinyemiju, Amit Algotar, Hoda Badr, Michele Cote, Tracy Crane, Carolyn Fang, Erin Kent, Lorna McNeill, Sandi Pruitt, Benjamin Rybicki, Stephanie Schmit, Alexandra White and Amy Trentham-Dietz.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to working with you over the next two years!