Dr Terrance Mayes and Dr Loretta Erhunmwunsee Discuss Leadership Roles for NCCN Forum on Equity


Terrance Mayes, EdD, and Loretta Erhunmwunsee, MD, FACS, discuss their new roles as chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s (NCCN) new Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Directors Forum.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recently announced the appointment of a chair and vice-chair to lead its new Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Directors Forum.

Terrance Mayes, EdD, inaugural associate dean and executive director for Strategy, Equity, and Inclusion for the Stanford Medicine Enterprise Strategy Team, and Loretta Erhunmwunsee, MD, FACS, thoracic surgeon and an assistant professor in City of Hope’s Division of Thoracic Surgery and Division of Health Inequities, respectively, will serve as chair and vice-chair.

Erhunmwunsee and Mayes, who also serves as executive director of the Commission on Justice and Equity at Stanford Medicine, and associate director for DEI at the Stanford Cancer Institute, discuss their goals and priorities in their new roles to support DEI efforts at NCCN’s academic cancer centers nationwide.


Dr Mayes, can you speak on your goals and priorities as chair of the NCCN DEI Directors Forum?

Mayes: I was honored to be appointed the inaugural chair of the NCCN DEI Forum. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, or NCCN, as it's called, is an alliance of 32 leading cancer centers, all of whom are really devoted to patient care, research, and education. And Stanford is a proud founding member of this network, we joined in the 90s.

The NCCN has long advocated for policies and practices to achieve equitable and accessible cancer care. But in recent years, and especially after the violence against Black Americans in the summer of 2020, the NCCN, like many organizations around the world, began to place a much greater and much needed focus on identifying and dismantling those deep rooted historical, social, and structural barriers—barriers that have hampered progress, including barriers such as racism, and other forms of discrimination.

So, I'm really proud to be a part of this group. The NCCN is established as a community of subject matter experts, really working together to address many of the issues that I just mentioned. And doing so through shared best practices, through policy, advocacy, at all levels, and through education, and that's what I am hoping we will do together as a community.

Dr Erhunmwunsee, can you speak on your goals and priorities as vice-chair of the NCCN DEI Directors Forum?

Erhunmwunsee: So, honestly, to achieve health equity, it is imperative that we attain true DEI within our workforce. And thus, we must move away from informative measures that simply discuss the benefits of DEI without any real change—instead start making the cancer centers and institutions truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

Right now, there are just too few [minorities] represented in medicine, in the workforce, and certainly in leadership. Even if they are there, they frequently experience isolation. And the truth is, this has to change. So, we at the new DEI Directors Forum hope to provide a venue for DEI leaders to show best practices and challenges regarding advancing DEI initiatives at their respective centers and to develop recommendations of new policies and practices to actually support DEI efforts so that we can get to a point where our workforce is truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable, and our patients therefore benefit and we can really walk towards health equity.

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