UF Health Cancer Center leaders honored as ASCO Advocacy Champions

Thomas George
Thomas George, M.D., FACP

Thomas George, M.D., FACP, and Merry Jennifer Markham, M.D., FACP, FASCO, have been honored by the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) as Advocacy Champions for exemplifying cancer care advocacy in 2022.

George, associate director for clinical research at the UF Health Cancer Center, was honored at the highest achievable level – the President’s Circle on ASCO’s list of 2022 honorees. This level recognizes those who actively engage in ASCO’s advocacy activities.

Markham, associate director for medical affairs at the UF Health Cancer Center, was honored as a Senator’s Club ASCO advocate, which recognizes those who participate in more than one of ASCO’s advocacy activities.

Merry Jennifer Markham, M.D., FACP, FASCO

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. The champions were named during the 2023 ASCO Advocacy Summit held May 1-2 on Capitol Hill.

“ASCO’s advocacy efforts and successes would not be possible without the tireless work of our Advocacy Champions,” said Jason Westin, M.D., FACP, chair of ASCO’s Government Relations Committee. “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. While the work isn’t done, we can trust that our advocates will remain dedicated in their pursuit of legislation that supports delivery of high-quality and equitable cancer care.”

George, a professor in the division of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine, also serves as director of the GI Oncology Program at the University of Florida and the research leader of the Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Cancers Disease Site Group. He previously served as chair of the Medical Advisory Board to the state of Florida Department of Health and the Screen for Life Colorectal Cancer Screening Program, which targets historically underserved populations. He also recently completed a 10-year term as the gubernatorial-appointed chair of the Florida Cancer Control and Research Advisory Council, which advises the legislature, Department of Health and state surgeon general on all cancer-related matters and policy.

Markham, also a professor in the division of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine, is chief of the division of hematology and oncology and the research leader for the Cancer Center’s Gynecologic Cancers Disease Site Group. Her primary focus is the care of women with gynecologic malignancies. Her research is focused on investigations of experimental therapeutics and prognostic factors for gynecologic malignancies. Markham is also involved in the study of quality of cancer care, quality improvement strategies and cancer survivorship.

Support from the state of Florida through the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Act (Fla. Stat. § 381.915) has been critical to the Cancer Center’s clinical research, such as that led by George and Markham. The program was established to enhance the quality and competitiveness of cancer care in Florida, further a statewide biomedical research strategy, and capitalize on the educational opportunities. Through this program, the state provides funding to Florida cancer centers that have achieved designation from the National Cancer Institute and those working to achieve the designation.

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