Dear IGCS Members and Friends,

2021 marked my fifth year as the International Gynecologic Cancer Society’s Chief Executive Officer and over twenty-five years in executive leadership roles in the non-profit healthcare industry. At the end of every year, I like to take some time to slow down and reflect on the lessons I’ve learned as I prepare to lead my team into a new year.

Over the years I’ve learned how important it is to continually communicate and share my vision with my staff, volunteer leaders, and members and friends of the organization I’m leading. Within my first 3 years with IGCS, I travelled the world with members of council, and we met with leaders from all over the globe, listened to their needs and invited them into IGCS. It was that “face to face” contact, that human interaction, the faith, and trust of our handshakes that laid a foundation for new partnerships and strengthened existing bonds. These personal interactions and continued touchpoints transformed IGCS into the largest global gynecologic oncology society; one that embraces the diversity that exists and is home to so many professionals who care for women with gyn malignancies every day.

In these last 18 months, I’ve learned that “Zoom fatigue” is very real and cannot replace the energy and sense of connection that we enjoy from face-to-face interactions. I’ll admit, it’s been difficult starting both 2020 and 2021 with the hope and anticipation of gathering with you all at different locations around the world only to have our plans derailed by circumstance.

But I’m grateful that our membership has not waivered and encouraged to see that our attendance at virtual meetings and webinars has only grown during this time. There are a lot of new people within our organization participating in our programs that I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting.

I’ve also learned that a leader is nothing without those who share in their vision. I am incredibly grateful for the team of volunteer leaders and staff I get to work with every day. I’ve learned to listen to them and empower them to find solutions to our greatest needs. I find that the biggest opportunities and ideas to keep IGCS moving forward are coming to us now in these uncertain times.

IGCS is becoming stronger, building on the successes and lessons of the past combined with the urgency for change that is demanded by younger generations. Complex issues around global health inequities are now at the forefront of so many of my conversations. I’m met with a renewed vigor to act strategically and formulate big plans to affect real change.

When we were developing our Global Health Equity Statement a little over a year ago, everyone involved was clear that it was more than just a statement – it would be our North Star to guide our programs and efforts. We all know that healthcare inequities exist not only on a global level but nationally and close to home. There is a momentum building, sparked by the meaningful engagement of young people to challenge the status quo and hold leaders accountable to implement meaningful change.

The worlds’ researchers, clinicians, and advocates need spaces and opportunities to come together and collaborate on solutions to address complex problems. I am proud yet humbled by my role in this, understanding the importance of societies like the IGCS to facilitate those connections and conversations. To create a space for you to rise to another level in pursuing your passions. To strengthen your collective voices.

I am optimistic about the future for gynecologic oncology and what our success means for your patients. I hope to look back in another twenty years and be amazed at how far the world has come.

Thank you for being a part of our community. I wish you all a safe and joyful holiday season and that the New Year brings you good health and happiness.

Mary C. Eiken, MS