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Doctors See Success at Butaro Cancer Center

11 Jun
PIH feature

Photos by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health

 

Dr. Cyprien Shyirambere examines 6-year-old pediatric oncology patient Frank Mugisha, whose name has been changed, for privacy, at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in rural northern Rwanda. Medical staff at the PIH-supported facility have treated several thousand patients, young and old, since it opened in 2012.

Five years after opening, the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence is achieving extraordinary successes in rural northern Rwanda, amid daunting challenges.

Doctors at the Partners In Health-supported facility are treating about 1,700 patients every year, young and old, on the campus of the public Butaro District Hospital. The campus lies amid lush, green hills in a remote region not far from the Ugandan border. Many patients, family members, and caregivers travel to Butaro from across Rwanda or from surrounding countries such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where high-quality cancer care is scarce or nonexistent.

Some of Butaro’s greatest successes can be found in its youngest visitors—children who come to the cancer center with slim hopes buoyed by fighting spirits, often with cancer that is in late stages because of treatment delays or misdiagnoses elsewhere.

Patients in the pediatric ward last spring included Frank Mugisha, 6. In March, Frank completed 30 months of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and could be seen around Butaro playing and spending time with family members. Butaro staff will continue monitoring him for the next five years.

Dugan, who’s been a clinical officer in Butaro’s pediatric cancer ward for about a year, said relapse is a constant concern.

“It takes a long period of follow-up to be sure you’ve really cured someone,” she said.

Frank’s story is one of hundreds.

Inside the pediatric ward at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, a PIH-supported facility at Butaro District Hospital in rural northern Rwanda. Children in the ward often mix in schoolwork, activities, and playtime between treatment and checkups.

While Butaro is very successful, a shortage of health care workers is a key challenge – one that severely impacts Africa. Butaro’s staff often is boosted with support from Dana-Farber and PIH programs.

Jen Haley, for example, is a former Dana-Farber cancer nurse who worked at Butaro as an oncology nurse educator from September to December 2016, through a PIH program.

Haley said she helped nurses at Butaro learn to watch for symptoms at various treatment levels, improve the overall quality of treatment, and educate patients’ families and caregivers about cancer and related care.

“Kids are so resilient. One minute you’re giving them a shot and the next minute they’re running up and giving you a hug,” Haley said.

Butaro’s staff has to be equally resilient, amid limited resources.

They don’t have a CAT scanner, an intensive care unit, or enough nurses. Stocks sometimes run out of needed medicines, and radiotherapy machines are a distant hope.

Shyirambere said he draws strength from successes. Treating children with cancer can be incredibly emotional, he said, but the reward is seeing young patients come back for positive follow-ups, return to school, and resume healthy childhoods.

“You feel like your day has been excellent,” he said.

SAAPHI would like to thank Partners in Health (PIH) for their great work in Rwanda and other parts of the world.

This is an abridged version of an impact story that was originally published in September 2017 at https://www.pih.org/article/doctors-see-daily-success-butaro-cancer-center. Check out this photo gallery to see more images from Butaro’s pediatric cancer ward. Also, be on the look out for more SAAPHI and PIH webinars to learn more about their global public health work and look out for job opportunities from PIH from the SAAPHI listserv.

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HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: New Orleans Passes A Smoke Free Ordinance

23 Apr

tobacco-ban

New Orleans has joined almost 700 cities nationwide in going smoke-free. In January 2015, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed and Mayor Landrieu signed into law a new, comprehensive smoke-free ordinance. The City’s new ordinance goes into effect on April 22, 2015.  In addition to smoking restrictions that already exist under state law, there will be new restrictions on smoking and vaping (use of electronic smoking devices) in many locations across the City.

Read more here: https://www.nola.gov/smokefree/

Highlighted Stories: Just Released – New 4th Edition of the Women of Color Health Data Book from the the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH)

1 Apr

The NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) is pleased to announce the publication of the Women of Color Health Data Book, 4th Edition.

The Women of Color Health Information Collection presents data on race/ethnicity and disease. Through data, clues about how culture, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and geographic location contribute to the health status of women of color can be identified. In order to explore sex differences, scientists need data about the similarities and differences between women and men in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions.

Learn more about women of color and their unique health needs, and how the Women of Color Health Data Book, 4th Edition, can assist clinicians in providing person-centered care for diverse populations of women. Please be sure to check out the Data Book, pull-out Data Book collections on breast cancer and HIV/AIDS, and a podcast from the Academy of Women’s Health. Also visit ORWH Director Dr. Janine Clayton’s blog for a commentary introducing the Data Book.

For more information on women’s health, visit the NLM Women’s Health Resources website.

Created in a partnership between the National Library of Medicine Outreach and Special Populations Branch and the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health, this page presents topics pertaining to women’s health collected to support the mission of the Office of Research on Women’s Health to promote research in the field.

HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: WHO Approves Breakthrough 15-minute Ebola Test

2 Mar

WHO Approves Breakthrough 15-minute Ebola Test

 

The World Health Organization has approved the first rapid test for Ebola in a potential breakthrough for ending an epidemic that has killed almost 10,000 people in West Africa, it said on Friday. The test, developed by U.S.firm Corgenix Medical Corp, is less accurate than the standard test but is easy to perform, does not require electricity, and can give results within 15 minutes, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.   Source:http://www.reuters.com

 

HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: People of Color Are Already Getting Hit the Hardest by Climate Change

25 Feb
Sixty-eight percent of African-Americans live within thirty miles of a coal-fired power plant, the zone of maximum exposure to pollutants that cause an array of ailments, from heart disease to birth defects.  Communities of color breathe in nearly 40 percent more polluted air than whites.  African-American children are three times as likely to suffer an asthma attack.  The NAACP launched its Climate Justice Initiative address the stark numbers head on.

More information here: http://m.thenation.com/blog/179407-people-color-are-already-getting-hit-hardest-climate-change

neighborhood

HIGHLIGHTED STORIES: Discrimination is bad for your health-and your kids too

25 Feb

discrimination

There is no shortage of evidence that racism persists.  Despite the fact that science has demonstrated that racial groups are defined by society rather than biology, an individual’s experience from the moment they are born is colored by the color of their skin.  Recently, high profile incidents have focused attention on how people can be treated differently by authority figures.  However the majority of discrimination experiences are much more subtle.  In fact, subtle bias may actually be more mentally damaging than overt bias.  Subtle bias is able to “get under the skin” to influence physical health.

More information here:  http://theconversation.com/discrimination-is-bad-for-your-health-and-your-kids-too-36054

Highlighted Stories: Mental Health Treatment in the US

5 Dec

Los Angeles Times – 7.6% of Americans are depressed, but few seek mental health treatment
About 1 in 13 Americans was suffering from depression at some point between 2009 and 2012, yet only 35% of people with severe depression and 20% of those with moderate depression said they had sought help from a mental health professional, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s troubling, the report authors write, because therapy combined with medication is “the most effective treatment for depression, especially for severe depression.” Drugs might be prescribed by a primary care doctor, but only a mental health specialist would conduct the type of therapy needed to get well.mental health