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Purpose of Life, AI, Travelling and more: Julie Gralow, Chief Medical Officer of ASCO
Jul 8, 2024, 12:03

Purpose of Life, AI, Travelling and more: Julie Gralow, Chief Medical Officer of ASCO

OncoDaily Walk and Talk is a series of interviews done by Tatev Margaryan, a public health practitioner from Armenia, with various oncologists worldwide. These interviews differ in their presentation.

The name itself, “Walk and Talk,” talks for itself. The host and the guest take a nice walk while chatting about everything and anything. Interview questions are not typical for doctors, making these series quite interesting to watch.
“Walk and Talk” aims to show the world that even world-renowned medical professionals have simple and surprising sides to them. We strive to show that these people are not just great professionals but also humans, which they sometimes forget.

Julie Gralow

Julie Gralow is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Executive Vice President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Previously, she was the Jill Bennett Endowed Professor of Breast Cancer at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Professor in the Clinical Research Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as well as Director of Breast Medical Oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She is the founder of the Women’s Empowerment Cancer Advocacy Network (WE CAN). Dr. Gralow received the ASCO Humanitarian Award in 2018 for her work in empowering women cancer patients and survivors globally.

Tatev Margaryan

Tatev Margaryan is the coordinator of the Blood Bank of Armenia at the Yeolyan Hematology and Oncology Center. Currently, she is the project manager of OncoDaily and a patient advocate at the Institute of Cancer and Crisis.

0:00 Introduction
1:50 Greatest Challenge Facing Humanity
2:50 Making a Personal Impact
4:10 Importance of Networking
4:25 Favorite Places to Visit
5:25 Hopeful Advances in Oncology
6:10 AI in Cancer Care
7:25 Embracing AI
8:00 Significant Life Change
9:10 Inspirational Story
10:30 Closing Remarks

The Transcript of Purpose of Life, AI, Travelling and more: Julie Gralow, Chief Medical Officer of ASCO

Tatev Margaryan: Hi everyone and welcome back to Walk and Talk on Oncodaily. My name is Tatev Margaryan and I’m your host as always. Today we have Dr. Julie Gralow as our guest.
Dr. Gralow, can you please introduce yourself?

Julie Gralow: Hi, I’m Julie Gralow. I’m the Chief Medical Officer at ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Tatev Margaryan: Okay, wonderful. Thank you. Dr. Gralow, so we’re going to take a walk in this beautiful scenery. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Julie Gralow: Yeah, it is gorgeous.

Tatev Margaryan: And I’m going to ask you a couple of personal, silly, maybe even deep questions. Okay. Now let’s get started.

Julie Gralow: Let’s get started.

Tatev Margaryan: We’re going to start with something deep then. Okay.
What’s the purpose of your life? What do you think? Yours and in general. That is deep. It is deep.

Julie Gralow: I think, you know, the older I get, my purpose changes a little bit. Uh-huh. But at this point in my life, my purpose is to make sure that the next generations are trained, they’re ready to take my place in oncology, they’re ready to improve the world.
So supporting, you know, the next generation, that’s the purpose of my life right now.

Tatev Margaryan: It’s so interesting because a lot of other doctors and professionals that we have interviewed, I have interviewed, have the same answer. Good.
This is the same answer to a couple of very different questions. So it’s nice to know that you all have this aim of preparing the next generation for the greatest good. So we’re all ready for what is coming.

Julie Gralow: You’re ready to take it on? Yes, we are. Great. Thank you.

Tatev Margaryan: So next up is, what do you think the greatest challenge that is facing humanity, humans at the moment is?

Julie Gralow: I think it’s really all of the inequities and disparities that exist around the world in so many ways. Obviously, as a chief medical officer at ASCO, I’m looking at cancer care disparities, but we have disparities in so many ways, in everything. Access to housing and food and education and health care.

But in oncology, even though we know so many things work, we have such inequities in getting access to those treatments in the U.S. and internationally. Everywhere. Everywhere.

Tatev Margaryan: So how can we help the world? What can we do to make a change, maybe on a personal level? I know there’s lots of stuff we can do on an organizational level, right? For example, ASCO is doing their thing. Cancer centers are doing their thing. What about personal?

Julie Gralow: Well, I think my contributions and my way of trying to understand how I can best help is to actually get out there and visit the world. And I’ve never been afraid since starting my career. And if I get invited to a conference or a meeting somewhere in the world, I will go there.

And I’ll interact with the oncologists, the cancer patients in that place and understand them, build personal relationships and trust. That takes a long time.

Tatev Margaryan: It’s such an important thing, right? Networking and building that personal and professional community. That’s right.
So you travel a lot.

Julie Gralow: I travel a lot. But I think it’s critical.
Because if you understand where people are coming from, and you understand that 99.9% of what we all want is the same.

Tatev Margaryan: Yes, that’s true. That’s exactly the same.

Julie Gralow: Then we’re going to be better able to help each other, right? I think we need better communication because we all need and want the same thing. And if we have better communication, I think we can get there sooner. And partnership.

Tatev Margaryan: Yes, absolutely. So you like traveling a lot, or you do travel a lot. What’s the best recommendation you have for a place to visit? Well, I have to say Yerevan, don’t I? Really? No, you don’t have to.
You have to visit it. Well, I’ve been there twice, and I love it. The food and the people.

Yes, the food is great as well. I started my global oncology work in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, with the Ukraine Breast Cancer Assistance Project. So I’ve been in that region of the world for so much.

And I just really love the culture, the people. You know, you’re so hospitable. Yes, that’s true.
So I would have to say, and you know, it’s not Yerevan, but it’s Tbilisi. When I had some friends who said, let’s go on a vacation together, take us somewhere we would never go otherwise, we went to Georgia. I love Georgia.

I know. So there you go. They also have great food.
Oh my gosh, and great wine.

Tatev Margaryan: Yes, that’s true. Okay, perfect. What are you most hopeful for?

Julie Gralow: Well, you know, this 60th ASCO annual meeting is just drawing to a close. I saw so much hope. I really did.
I saw, you know, not just promising, exciting new therapies, but also a real focus on quality of life and survivorship, on how we’re going to use artificial intelligence and technology.

Tatev Margaryan: There was a loss of AI this year, right?

Julie Gralow: Yes, and I think that’s going to help overcome some of the disparities and the inequities. I do.
So I have a lot of hopes that not only do we have a lot of exciting new treatments, precision medicine, targeted drugs, immunotherapy, but we have more kind of precision risk reduction, prevention, screening, et cetera, as well.

So I think the strategy of, you know, reducing risk, finding it early, and then better treatments, and then better survivorship or palliative care, I think we had examples of all of that at the annual meeting. I have a lot of hope that we are really making a dent now.
We are really working toward that goal of reducing the incidents as well as the mortality from cancer.

Tatev Margaryan: And you think AI is helping us in that?

Julie Gralow: Well, so here’s an example of a great abstract that was presented at this meeting that we put in the press program. So these were inner-city New York patients who had been recommended to have colon cancer screening, had a colonoscopy scheduled, and then missed the appointment.

And they used a bot, an AI bot named MyEleanor, and she called these people. And reminded them? Well, she didn’t just remind them. She interacted with them.

And I’ve seen transcripts and heard the interaction. And so in a very personalized way, you know, she would say, What are your barriers? How can I help? And if they said, Well, I don’t understand why I need it. She would be able to answer.
If they said, I’m worried about the cost. I’m worried about what if there’s an abnormal finding. You know, all of these things, she was able to give very personalized answers back, and there was a back and forth.

And I think some of the patients asked questions. You know, it’s a colonoscopy, right? It’s a little bit embarrassing. Well, yes.
Not everyone knows that. No. And I think some patients asked, some of these people asked questions that they never would have asked a human, probably, because they would have been embarrassed.

Yes, that’s true. And she spoke Spanish, too, by the way. So we can teach her how to interact.
Yeah. So we’re looking at, Well, could we do it in other languages? Could we do it for screening mammography or for lung cancer screening? I mean, that’s just one simple way of showing how we can harness technology for the good and get more people in for cancer screening.

Tatev Margaryan: Yeah, I think it has a long way to go, but it has already come so far.

Julie Gralow: Well, we’re here. We’re in the middle of AI, right? Yes, we are. And we’ve got to harness it for the good.
If we don’t step in and take control, it will go off in a direction we don’t like, right?

Tatev Margaryan: And maybe someday we’ll be controlled by robots. Hopefully, that will not happen.

Julie Gralow: Hopefully not.
Well, I heard someone in a plenary recently say, Oncologists won’t be replaced by AI, but oncologists who embrace AI will replace oncologists who don’t. Oh, now that’s wise. There you go.

Tatev Margaryan: I do feel that that’s wise. Okay, that was very elaborative. I love it.
Yes. Can you tell me one example of a significant change that you have made in your life that you are really proud of, that you are not disappointed by?

Julie Gralow: Well, so I would say off the top of my head, when I was growing up, you know, in school, I was not very athletic. I mean, it was decades ago.
It was not when we had so much organized sports, especially for girls. And in college, you know, I didn’t do much in the way of organized sports. It was just my family didn’t.

It wasn’t the era, right? And then when I was doing my fellowship in oncology, and I started specializing in breast cancer, my patients started asking me to help them get fit. Fit. In their life.

So we started a group called Team Survivor Northwest to get exercise and fitness in the lives of women cancer patients. And so I started by doing a triathlon with them. And then we said, we have to figure out a way for everybody, no matter what their ability is, to get some, to set goals.

That was the key. Set a goal and then get some fitness in their life. One of my patients, her goal was to be able to push her wheelchair around the block.

You know, so it didn’t have to be a big goal. So with that, I started running. I’ve done marathons.
I’ve climbed mountains. I mean, I got really hooked on it. And I did a lot of it with patients.

For my 50th birthday, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Oh, wow. I’ve been to Everest Base Camp with the fundraiser for cancer.
So that’s a change I made. That, one, I wanted to do it with my patients, showed them I really believed in the importance of exercise. But then it kind of lit a fire in me, and I got so excited.

For my 60th birthday, we went trekking in Bhutan. That’s so nice. So that is a change I made.
It’s really been able to show patients, I believe in this, and it’s important, and you can do it too, right?

Tatev Margaryan: I think you have inspired so many patients of yours to this, because you just inspired me. I do love hiking, but I think I’ve been doing too little of it.

Maybe I should restart it. Set a goal. Push yourself a little bit. I will.
I definitely will. So thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me. And thank you, everyone, for watching our Walk and Talks.

We had Dr. Julie Gralow as our guest for today. And yeah, stay tuned for future Walk and Talks. See ya.

Previous episodes of OncoDaily Walk and Talk with Tatev Margaryan

Episode 1: Yelena Janjigian

Episode 2: John Gore

Episode 3: Philip Philip, Celine Philip

Episode 4: Maite Gorostegui

Episode 5: Enrique Soto

Episode 6: Dinesh Pendharkar

Episode 7: Giuseppe Saglio

Episode 8: Marina Konopleva