Working with international institutions to improve cancer care in Africa

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Published: 8 Dec 2015
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Dr Shubhra Ghosh - MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Houston, USA

Dr Ghosh talks to ecancertv at AORTIC 2015 about the MD Anderson's Africa Initiative which focuses on training and educating doctors, nurses and clinicians from Africa using their multidisciplinary approach.

She talks about their activities working with institutions in Zambia and Mozambique and says that they have also learned from African healthcare professionals about the specificities of the cancer management challenge in Africa and the ways they have approached it.

Our hospital started an Africa initiative about three years ago and the basic purpose of this whole project is to work with our colleagues here in Africa in order to basically join forces with them in the fight against cancer. So we’re focussing on training and education for the healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses and technicians in different specialties. At MD Anderson we provide multidisciplinary cancer care and while that model may not fit exactly as is within Africa, there might be an opportunity to work with our colleagues here to show them how we do things and learn from them how they are approaching cancer care here.

So what we are trying to do is identify the specific areas that are high priority within the regions. For example in Zambia we’ve been working with the Cancer Diseases Hospital which is the Ministry of Health Cancer Hospital in the country. We sat down with them, we had an in-country workshop in March and we sat down with them, went over their own plans for national cancer control and together, along with some of our partners from within the Global Programmes Network, we came up with a training programme for three years where doctors, technicians and nurses from the Cancer Diseases Hospital would get an opportunity to come and train at MD Anderson and our other sister institutions in South Africa and Brazil and in Europe. The idea is for them to see how we approach cancer care in our hospitals and then see if any of that is relevant in their own settings. And also for us to work with them to learn about cancer in Africa because there are many differences in how cancer is... the whole process of diagnosing cancer, managing cancer is different, how cancer occurs, why cancer occurs and all of the management of cancer is very different across the world so we want to learn from our colleagues right here in Africa.

Similarly we are also now working with Tanzania, the Ocean Road Cancer Institute there. South Africa has been very… they’ve been wonderful partners because they are an advanced country, they already have a lot of infrastructure and they aim to offer training to their regional countries. So they have the African Cancer Institute at Stellenbosch University and within that programme they have training opportunities for other physicians and scientists from Africa.

We are also looking to work with Ethiopia and we have a very nice project ongoing in Mozambique. Each of these are focussed on specific cancers, like I said, based on the interests of the country. In Mozambique the project is mostly focussed on women’s cancers, starting with gynaecologic cancers.