In celebration of Women’s History Month BLFA is honoring the legacy of female physicians who have made and continue to make history in Africa. Follow us on social media where we have highlighted the accomplishments of these women throughout the month.
Kate Westmoreland is a pediatric hematology oncologist whose research focuses on optimizing treatment outcomes for children with cancer in conjunction with UNC Project Malawi. She is only the second physician in this field in the entire country of Malawi. BLFA has the honor of supporting her work with our partner UNC Project Malawi.
Kristin Schroeder is a Pediatric Hematologist specializing in Neuro-Oncology working in Tanzania. She is one of only two physicians in the entire country who treat children with any form of cancer. Dr. Schroeder hopes that one day she won’t be needed to provide this care because there will be enough trained local doctors in the region. Alongside her team, she has established an innovative pediatric cancer unit where she provides a holistic approach to cancer treatment. BLFA has the honor of supporting her work through our NGO partner ICCARE.
Josephine Nambooze became the first female physician in East Africa, specifically Uganda, when she graduated medical school in 1959. Growing up she had to complete her science classes at an all-boys school. She was the first female in attendance at Makerere University School of Medicine. She continued to break glass ceilings for women in Uganda when she became the first woman to head the country’s Public Health Institute.
Ng’endo Mwangi was Kenya’s first female physician. She studied in the United States where she was the first African woman to attend both Smith College and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. After completing her studies she returned to Kenya to establish her first practice where she was the only doctor for over 300,000 Maasai people.
Ester Mwaikambo became Tanzania’s first female physician in 1969. In 1987 she established the Medical Women Association of Tanzania to mentor and inspire other young women to pursue medicine. Today she is a professor of pediatrics and is planning to transition to writing books on pediatrics and child health.
International Childhood Cancer Day 2022 (ICCD) celebrates the affirmation that better survival for pediatric cancer patients is possible #throughyourhands and celebrates the many instrumental advocates in a child’s journey to a cure.
Today in East Africa, there is currently an average of 20% survival rate for children diagnosed with cancer. In line with WHO initiatives, our goal is at least 60% survival by 2030. These percentages are represented in the colored hands in the tree of life.
Our programs directly contribute to the WHO goal by allowing for faster and more accurate diagnosis, social and economic support, as well as community awareness and education. Learn more about our programs here.
ICCD is encouraging everyone to submit a handprint as a gesture of hope to achieving this survival goal.
This year the theme of World Cancer Day is “closing the care gap.” This message aligns strongly with BLFA’s own work to provide accessible comprehensive cancer care to children in lower-income nations, because where you live shouldn’t determine if you live. In recognition of this day, we are celebrating the technology advancements that help to close the care gap in Africa, specifically our recent work using remote training on newly donated state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment.
2021 saw the BLFA’s Pathology Improvement Program (PIP), along with our corporate partner Beckman Coulter and our African collaborators in both Kampala, Uganda and Eldoret, Kenya, successfully implement a state-of-the-art technology called 10-color flow cytometry, which is the same method used for diagnosing blood-related cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma in the US and other higher-income nations. The success of this implementation, which was accompanied by a series of online trainings led by PIP Director Dr. Steve Kussick, is particularly impressive because it was all done remotely due of travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn more about 10-color flow cytometry:
The next PIP focus in both Uganda and Kenya will be enhancement of more traditional microscope-based diagnosis using glass slides, using another specialized technique called immunohistochemistry, or IHC. These 2 labs combined serve a population of approximately 70 million people, with 66% of this group being in Uganda and the other 33% in Western Kenya.
BLFA strives to provide accessible comprehensive cancer care in traditionally underserved communities, because where you live shouldn’t determine if you live.
Support our efforts to continue closing the pediatric care gap:
As the first month of the new year comes to a close, we want to share our enhanced commitment to increasing the survival rate of children with cancer in underserved countries and decreasing global inequities in pediatric care. From diagnosis and treatment to transportation and housing, each step of the cancer journey is crucial to reaching a cure. For the past decade BLFA has remained dedicated to supporting each pillar of this journey, a mission which we will continue to foster in the New Year. We look forward to a year of growth in 2022 as our vision and work expand to support even more life-saving programs.
It takes a village to reach a village - and a cure. Join us in our New Year's resolution by beginning a monthly donation to BLFA.
We want to hear from you! You Tell Us: How Should We Go Global in 2022?
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One of the primary reasons children in Africa die from cancer is because they drop out of (or never enter) cancer treatment due to social or economic barriers faced by their families. A primary focus of the BLFA is to eliminate these barriers. This month through our Treatment Abandonment-Reduction Program (TAP), we are committing $30,000 to fund projects with three of our existing Africa partners that we feel could best achieve this goal.
St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Uganda, iCCARE Tanzania, and UNC Project Malawi have each established successful initiatives that address local barriers to childhood cancer treatment. Their new projects are based on in-depth conversations with families they serve and what those families need most to ensure the best chance for a child’s treatment and survival.
“We are moved by our partners’ deep commitment to families of children with cancer,” said Suzanne McGoldrick, Pediatric Oncologist and President, BLFA Board of Directors. “Their work has already made lasting contributions to their communities. We are excited to see how these new projects further the awareness of, and survival rates for, childhood cancer.”
BLFA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Seattle, Washington, supporting innovative programs to reduce the disparities in childhood cancer care in underserved areas. Our mission is to cure children with cancer by ensuring patients and families receive the medical, social, and economic support needed to help them successfully access and complete curative treatment. We do this by supporting in-country programs with NGOs, medical centers, and governmental organizations.
Our founder visited a children’s cancer ward in Kenya in 2009 and was deeply moved to see very sick children in the hospital with no other available treatment beyond pain control. These children had a cancer called Burkitt’s Lymphoma (BL), one of the most aggressive yet treatable childhood cancers with very high survival rates in Western Countries. She made it her life’s work to provide access to the same treatment as children in more developed countries. Today, we support programs in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and Tanzania. As we grow, we plan to move into other countries in Africa - and beyond - to further reduce inequities and increase the survival rate of more children with cancer.