Dear colleagues and friends from the SIOP community,
I write this letter from Lviv, Ukraine, where for the second year in a row, I attended the week-long “Ukraine Paediatric Fellowship Program”. This humanitarian program aims to support the training of paediatric neurosurgeons in Ukraine. Dr. James Rutka, a paediatric neurosurgeon in Toronto with family roots in Ukraine, has been significantly involved in this initiative since its very inception. A year ago, he recruited me to support the training of paediatric oncologists.
The past week amounts to a relatively short mission, yet one consisting of many long days doing ward rounds, reviewing and discussing cases, giving lectures; on his side, Jim spent most of his time in the OR with his fellow neurosurgeons. Overall, both of us felt that the days we spent in Ukraine were lesson in humility, as we witnessed the endless enthusiasm and tireless energy of those colleagues of ours who work with such limited resources in a challenging social, political and economical environment.
Both this experience and my recent attendance at the continental meetings of SIOP Africa (a superb conference chaired by Pr. Hessissen from Morocco) and SIOP Asia (equally outstanding, with Pr. Panya Seksarn as president of the local organising committee) have reinforced my belief in the pressing need to do more for children in countries with limited resources. This starts with education, but also includes advocacy for access to essential medicine, and so many other aspects of our practice that we consider done deals when we work in high-income countries. Attending these meetings also strengthened my belief in the power of telecommunication, be it our everyday email, rarer telemedicine or other tools still under development. Of course, regular communication is also a powerful resource: we can do so much by simply taking a moment, from time to time, to provide expert advice or knowledge to those colleagues of ours who have limited or no access to up to date medical literature.
It is in this particular context that I would like to share some good news with you all. On May 30th 2017, at the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, a new cancer resolution was adopted. Through it, health leaders from across the world reaffirmed cancer control as a critical health and development priority. The driving message was that today, only 5% of global resources for cancer prevention and control are spent in low and middle income countries. This 2017 cancer resolution is “a direct response to this challenge, providing countries with guidance for change from health promotion and risk factor reduction … but also the need to address inequity in access to early detection, timely and appropriate treatment, including pain relief and palliative care.”
Many people have contributed to the adoption of this resolution, and in its highlighting of the needs of children, adolescents and young adults. Members of the UICC, in particular Pr. Tezer Kutluk and Julie Torode, our partners from CCI (Carmen Auste and Ruth Hoffman), and several members of the SIOP community, especially Pr. Tim Eden and Pr. Gabriele Calaminus played a critical role in this regard. The recent appointment of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as WHO’s new Director General is also, without a doubt, a great opportunity for renewed advocacy, and SIOP is looking forward to contributing to making a difference in the care of children affected by cancer worldwide during his term.
To conclude, I merely wanted to saw a few words regarding the forthcoming SIOP congress that will take place in Washington, DC next October. With the help of the local organizing committee and the members of the scientific committee, Dr. Jeff Dome and Dr. Steve Hunger have now finalized the social and the scientific program. There is no doubt in my mind that this meeting is building up to be one the highlights of the year, for both SIOP and non SIOP members alike. On behalf of the members of the board of SIOP, I am eager to say that we look forward to seeing you in Washington!
Wishing you all a pleasant summertime,