Narjust Duma, MD, is a thoracic oncologist and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, in Madison, Wisconsin. She is an expert in lung cancer management, sex differences in immunotherapy outcomes, workplace diversity and inclusion, and patient inclusiveness in clinical trials.

Dr Duma and colleagues evaluated gender bias in American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting speaker introductions from past meetings (including presentations from 2017 and 2018) — and she along with Miriam A. Knoll, MD, presented their team’s findings at the 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting.1 The results of the study were also published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO).2 

Cancer Therapy Advisor sat down with Dr Duma to get the details about what spurred her to investigate gender bias in oncology, and to learn a little bit about how speaker ethnicity and nationality may also influence how oncologists are being presented to peers. In addition, Dr Duma spoke about how gender and ethnicity may influence medical school enrollment and the appointment of faculty and division chair positions.

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This interview has been edited for clarity.

Cancer Therapy Advisor (CTA): What prompted your study of gender bias in ASCO Annual Meeting speaker introductions?

Dr Duma: In 2018, I was [attending] the last day of ASCO, which was a Tuesday. Usually half the people at the meeting already go home after Monday. I was in a talk where the speaker — the only one for that session — was a full professor and was an expert on the field. When the time came to introduce her — an expert with numerous honors and everything — she was introduced as ‘Julie.’ And I was like, uh….why is she [just] Julie? Everybody else is Dr so-and-so. That day, I put a poll on Twitter, just to see if I was the only one to pick up on it.

The response was quite overwhelming. A lot of people, including men, answered that yes, we have seen [this happen]. So then I went to ESMO [European Society for Medical Oncology], which is the largest European conference for oncology, and a renowned doctor there was winning the biggest award one can get at ESMO; a woman who has several PhD [degrees] and many honors. During her 10-minute introduction, the speaker omitted her professional title and referred to her as ‘Mrs last name’. And everybody before her and after her was introduced as ‘doctor.’

I got in touch with our senior author, Dr Miriam Knoll, and we embarked on this study. We watched all of the videos from the 2017 and 2018 [ASCO annual] meetings, [accompanied by] all the transcripts.