“It is important to seize new opportunities”

April 21, 2022

3 minute read


Disclosures: Kelly reports no relevant financial information.


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In his new role as CEO of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, or IASLC, Karen Kelly, MD, has seen its reach as a leader expand from local to global.

“I have spent the past 6 years chairing the SWOG National Cancer Research Network Pulmonary Committee, and have had the opportunity to hold leadership positions at the local and state level,” said said Kelly, a renowned medical oncologist and researcher and a co-founder of the University of California Lung Cancer Consortium, said during an IASLC press briefing. “When this job opportunity presented itself [with IASLC]I was very excited because it allowed me to help globally.


Karen Kelly, MD



However, after interviewing for the job, Kelly said what really impressed her was the people.

“When I came here, interviewed and met the staff, that’s what really sealed this opportunity for me,” she said. “I felt so privileged to be able to accept this position, knowing that I would be working with such a great team of people who are truly dedicated to lung cancer. »

A large knowledge base

Kelly, who is a former IASLC board member and active member, most recently served as professor of medicine and associate director of clinical research at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she also held the Jennifer Rene Harmon Tegley and Elizabeth Erica Harmon Endowed Chair in Clinical Cancer Research. She has authored or co-authored over 190 publications, including original articles, reviews and book chapters.

After completing her medical training at the University of Kansas, she went to the University of Colorado for her residency training. She talked about the value of mentoring she received from Paul Bunn, MD, eminent professor of medicine and medical oncology.

“Under his mentorship, I was able to conduct clinical research across the spectrum of lung cancer,” Kelly said. “I was fortunate to be able to work not only on the therapeutic side of lung cancer, but also on the side of early detection, prevention and screening.

Thereafter, Kelly spent the last 11 years at the University of California, Davis. There she was able to continue her research on lung cancer and was also able to hold leadership positions. She said her career trajectory prepared and inspired her to take on this new position.

“The overall vision of this organization and its mission, which is to defeat chest cancers worldwide, has always been at the heart of what I have done throughout my career,” said Kelly. “I remain incredibly passionate about this mission, which includes our scientific and educational resources. We must remain faithful to this mission and we must continue to mentor young teachers, because they will be the future of this mission.

‘Age is just a number’

Moving on to the IASLC, Kelly said part of her decision was based on a lifelong belief in being open to new opportunities.

“I have always said throughout my career that it is important to pursue new opportunities, especially if the opportunity is going to help me advance academically, develop my career and grow personally,” she said. “So I always prided myself on taking opportunities, and I thought I could do it.”

She emphasized the importance of continuing to learn and grow as a researcher and clinician throughout her career.

“Age is just a number, as I find out,” she said. “I mentioned the importance of training junior teachers and early career colleagues, but I also don’t want to forget our middle and senior level colleagues. Learning is lifelong, and we want to make sure we engage those members too, so they have the tools they need to keep making important discoveries.

Kelly spoke with Healio about how she would advise a female oncologist looking to change careers.

“I would start by making sure I had a clear vision of why I wanted to change careers, what I want to accomplish in the new career path, and whether I have the foundational skills that can be cultivated to succeed. “, she says. “Then I would look for a mentor or mentors who can help you achieve your new goals. Create a realistic 3 and 5 year plan that also includes some stretch goals. »

For more information:

Karen Kelly, MD, can be contacted at [email protected]

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