Each February 4, people everywhere are encouraged to take steps toward improving cancer awareness, prevention, and care on World Cancer Day. But for Dana-Farber staff working with colleagues in dozens of under-resourced countries, every day provides opportunities to help cancer patients worldwide.
The Global Health Initiative at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center has formed programs with 25 partner institutions in 18 countries aimed at helping pediatric cancer and blood disorders patients and their families.
Another Dana-Farber effort – the Center for Global Cancer Medicine (CGCM) – helps adult cancer patients as well as children. The CGCM operates with the nonprofit Partners In Health to assist countries with cancer care, research, and education, including ongoing programs in Rwanda and Haiti.
“We have made the commitment at Dana-Farber to travel far beyond our walls and reach everyone we can,” says Irini Albanti, MA, MPH, manager of the Global Health Initiative. “From delivering projects in clinical, nursing, and psychosocial care to providing research, training, and technical advice, we are focused on sharing our knowledge and experiences.”
In honor of World Cancer Day, here is a look at some of Dana-Farber’s global oncology outreach:
In addition to advancing care for patients abroad, Dana-Farber staff train doctors, nurses, and other caregivers in the delivery of cancer care. Here, Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center nurse Lisa Morrissey, MPH, MSN, RN, instructs nurses at Yangon Children’s Hospital in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar.
As the first director of the Center for Global Cancer Medicine, Lawrence Shulman, MD (at far left, with young friends in Rwanda), was the face of Dana-Farber’s early outreach efforts. He led development of the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in Rwanda, which upon opening in 2012 provided the only widely available cancer care in this Central Africa country of 11.5 million.
Today, thanks to Shulman’s initial efforts in Rwanda and Haiti, caregivers from Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s and Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center routinely make three- and six-month teaching trips to these countries and train local workers to operate dedicated oncology facilities.
Through the Global Oncology Fellowship Program, physicians from North Africa and the Middle East can gain training in neuro-oncology, stem cell transplantation, and other specialties from Dana-Farber colleagues – both in Egypt and in Boston.
Similarly, nurses from these regions – including this group posing with their Dana-Farber colleagues in Cairo – gain cancer-specific knowledge from trips to the U.S. as well as our nurses’ visits there.
A vital resource in fighting cancer is developing cancer registries, which allow health policy makers to assess and address inequalities in prevention, access, and care – such as ethnicity, occupation, and socioeconomic status — within and between countries. Registries also serve as the basis for epidemiological studies.
In Guatemala, where this child received treatment, Dana-Farber is helping develop a national pediatric cancer registry that will expand to cover the entire Guatemalan pediatric population.
By serving as mentors both abroad and in Boston, Dana-Farber staff gain special bonds with their international colleagues. Virchick played host to Rwandan nurse Jean Bosco Brigirimmana, RN (right), who observed patient care, chemotherapy infusions, and bone marrow and stem cell transplants at Dana-Farber and its care partners Children’s Hospital Boston and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.