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Healio — HemOnc Today celebrates the 2024 Disruptive Innovators

Healio — HemOnc Today celebrates the 2024 Disruptive Innovators

CHICAGO — Healio once again welcomed the excitement of the Disruptive Innovator Awards, working with new partners and celebrating nine distinct areas of progress in oncology and hematology.

Hosted again by Shikha Jain, MD, FACPjoined this year by Mark A. Lewis, MD, as the “understudy” to Edward S. Kim, MD, MBA, FACP, FASCOwho had family celebrations, the ceremony followed a great turnout for the #ASCO24 Tweet-Up.

Each of the awardees in the nine categories changed the face of oncology or hematology and pushed the status quo toward the betterment of the field. Votes cast by the clinical and research communities determine the winners from a highly distinguished list of nominated physicians, researchers, influencers and institutions.

Health Equity Award

The first award of the evening was the Health Equity Award, given in partnership with the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

This award goes to a physician who has made meaningful change to overcome the social determinants of health in hematology/oncology. The awardee models the ideals of health equity and demonstrates how identifying and addressing social determinants of health can improve patient care.

Our 2024 Health Equity Award winner is Karen M. Winkfield, MD, PhD.

Winkfield is the executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance which strives to improve health equity through communication between academia and the community.

As an engaged researcher and health advocate, Winkfield challenges clinicians to meet their patients where they are to best serve them and lift underserved communities through initiatives designed around the people.

Her expertise led to development of a platform to enable accurate and timely distribution of clinical information to these communities, addressing cultural barriers and encouraging appropriate cancer care.

NextGen Disruptor

This award goes to an up-and-coming physician who is disrupting the status quo in the field, whether through new techniques, new thoughts, questioning methods or breakthrough research.

The awardee consistently comes to mind when we discuss “the next big thing.”

Our 2024 NextGen Disruptor is Kekoa Taparra, MD, PhD, MPH.

As one of the first native Hawaiians to achieve an MPH, PhD and an MD, Taparra has already made a name for himself and his mission to bring awareness and improved oncology care to his island home.

He runs a lab with more than 20 native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander scholars and allies who are all focused on uncovering NHPI health disparities. These goals range from overcoming indigenous erasure and structural racism to looking into sustainable climate-resilient health care systems.

Taparra will surely make an impact for years to come as he grows even more into his voice and research and receives much-deserved recognition.

Woman Disruptor of the Year

This award, given in partnership with Women in Medicine, goes to a woman in the field who continuously leads and sets the tone for how a successful career can unfold.

The awardee may have a career of positive disruption or more recent advancements through which she has made a positive impact within the specialty.

Our Woman Disruptor of the Year is Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH.

Aggarwal is a Healio | HemOnc Today Associate Medical Editor and an integral part of Healio’s Women in Oncology Peer Perspective Board, leading through her work as associate director of the Penn Center for Cancer Care Innovation.

Her work in lung cancer contributed to the revolution in targeted and personalized therapies with her expertise in plasma-based gene sequencing. Going forward, we expect to see even more in the realm of early detection, diagnostics and disease monitoring.

Outside of lung cancer, Aggarwal pushes for strategic and operational improvement that will continue to improve patient care.

Clinical Innovation Award

This award, given in partnership with City of Hope, goes to a physician or institution that changed the face of the hematology/oncology practice.

The awardee is seen as an example of how patient care can be improved through changes in administration, technique, or the delivery of value-based care.

This year’s winner is Duke Cancer Institute for its electronic consult program for patients who developed endocrine immune-related adverse events.

The program, created by Afreen Idriss Shariff, MD, MBBS, director of the Duke Endo-Oncology program and associate director of the cancer therapy toxicity program within Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at Duke Cancer Institute, has considerably reduced health care utilization.

The acuity-based Duke Endo-Oncology Electronic Consultative Service launched in 2020 and has since done consults for more than 300 patients, reducing wait times for appointments and hospitalization rates, as well as lowering costs.

Lifetime Disruptor

This award goes to a hematologist-oncologist who consistently pushed their field forward through innovative treatments, practice management, patient care or research.

The awardee is seen as a leader in their subspecialty whose contributions to the field garner recognition of incoming physicians.

The 2024 Lifetime Disruptor is Robert A. Winn, MD.

Winn embodies the idea of lifetime disruption. Early in his career, he pushed for equity and inclusion in clinical trials and recognition of lung cancer disparities across all communities.

He leads the VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center while serving on many boards and continuing his own research.

Even when faced with a global pandemic, Winn moved the needle on health care as he launched a nationally heralded Facts & Faith Fridays conversation series. This initiative creates a dialogue between science, community and faith leaders to combat medical mistrust within the African American community.

Social Media Influencer

This year, Healio partnered with COSMO to give this award, which goes to a health care professional who makes a positive impact on social media through platforms such as X (Twitter), Facebook and Instagram and leads continued innovation in health care practitioner use of new platforms.

The awardee is a trusted resource for their peers and patients amid the din of social media.

This award goes to The Oncology Brothers.

Rahul Gosain, MD, MBA, and Rohit Gosain, MD, started their joint social journey in 2021 and cultivate a community of discussion and leadership in the oncology space.

From X to Instagram to their podcast, the Oncology Brothers are always debating the latest innovations and bringing in other leading experts to give their perspectives.

Both physicians lead in their daily lives at their respective institutions and bring a unique perspective as brothers, oncologists and social media trailblazers.

Advanced Practice Trailblazer

This award, given with our other inaugural partner, the Oncology Nursing Society, goes to an advanced practice provider whose innovative approaches have improved patient outcomes or quality of care.

This year’s Trailblazer is Lauren GhazalPhD, FNP-BC.

Ghazal is quickly making a name for herself in the oncology community as a voice for adolescent cancer survivors — being a survivor herself — and also for oncology nurses.

Her focus for adolescent cancer survivors lies in the financial toxicity many experience at such a young age while she calls for increased visibility for nurses in positions of leadership and more focus on mental health and burnout among advanced practice providers.

Ghazal embodies the trailblazer spirit and so early in her career that there is much more to come.

The Patient Voice

This award goes to a patient advocate or advocacy group who moved the needle in public discussions with patients and patient groups, improving communication between patients and providers and working with all parties to push legislative or regulatory action.

Our 2024 Patient Voice is Friends of Cancer Research.

Friends has a mission of driving collaboration among partners from every health care sector to power advances in science, policy, and regulation in order to put life-saving treatments in the clinic.

In 2024, Friends launched a new research partnership — Digital and Computational Pathology Tool Harmonization (Digital PATH) Project — and outlined a potential framework for optimizing development of genetically engineered cellular therapies through extrapolation of data across related products.

These two initiatives exemplify the realization of the work that Friends of Cancer Research does every day — practical solutions to improving patient care.

Jeff Allen, president and CEO of Friends of Cancer Research, accepted this award.

Industry Breakthrough Award

This award goes to a product that stands out as a major disruption to the practice of hematology/oncology. The awardee will have been acknowledged in practice guidelines and enthusiastically integrated into practice.

This year’s winner is belzutifan (Welireg, Merck).

Approved by the FDA in 2021 for the treatment of certain patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease-associated renal cell carcinoma, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and central nervous system hemangioblastomas, Welireg also received approval from the FDA last December for the treatment of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma following treatment with PD-1/PD-L1 and VEGF targeted agents — an exciting new option for refractory kidney cancer.

Compared to everolimus, Welireg showed a 25% decrease in the risk of disease progression or death along with five times greater overall response rates.

With this recent approval, “This has the chance to become a new standard-of-care,” Toni K. Choueiri, MD, of Dana Farber Cancer Institute told Healio.

On behalf of Merck, Rodolfo Perini, associate vice president of clinical research and renal cell carcinoma program lead, accepted the award.


Thank you to all of you who joined us for this special occasion. We look forward to seeing you at future Healio events.