Working In Oncology
Working In Oncology

Episode · 10 months ago

The Nonprofit That’s Making Incredible Strides to Raise Survivorship in Nigeria


How can we improve survivorship in a country where there’s no institute or agency for cancer control, no PET scans available, and no health insurance for 95% of the population?

The answer to this question isn’t simple. But it’s a conversation we need to have.

In this episode, we speak with Runcie C. W. Chidebe, Founder and Executive Director at Project PINK BLUE. He tells us about the budding state of oncology in Nigeria, as well as his nonprofit’s efforts to generate awareness, train doctors, increase access, and improve survivorship.

If you’re interested in “zooming out” and looking at Oncology care through a different lens, this episode is a must. And if you want to help, Runcie shares several ways to contribute, no matter where in the world you are.

Here are the show highlights:

- How Project PINK BLUE mobilizes thousands — and even the government — to help fight cancer (3:50)

- Why there’s a shortage of oncology doctors in Nigeria (5:26)

- “People working in oncology in many African countries are the best humans in the world — no apology!” (11:08)

- In a way, COVID-19 has actually had a positive impact on healthcare in Nigeria (16:10)

- Runcie’s call for global collaboration to improve HPV vaccine access (19:51)

- Want to help? Talk about it, partner with Project PINK BLUE, volunteer, or donate (25:32)

Stay connected with Working in Oncology on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our podcast website.

You're listening to working in oncology, a podcast and video show that spotlights oncology practice, staff and industry influencers who work behind the scenes to shape the future of oncology. The more knowledge the oncology community shares with each other, the more we all grown. Let's get into the show. In this episode, we talked to run CCW. Today, Bay, a Nigerian Cancer Control Advocate recently honored by the US Department of State, will discuss cancer policy advocacy, global health and creating a cancer survivorship culture where none exists. Welcome to working in oncology. I'm your cohost, Alicia Evans, and I'm joined here today by run CCW Geejay Day. Welcome to the show. Thank you very much, Alicia. Today we are going to talk about what working in oncology is like in Nigeria and we're also going to talk about a nonprofit organization called Project Pink Blue. So what motivated you to start working in oncology? Interest in the I got into oncology by USIDENTS. Oh yeah, I never set out to walk in oncology or probably to do anything oncology. You know, it's just during what we call the National Service in Nigeria, when you graduate, you are always, everyone is always expected to serve the country for one year and it's like mandatory, you know. So during my national service I usually see people carrying bandages on that breast and, you know, looking for funds to treatment and stuff like that. So I just kind of ask myself, is there any way we can prevent cancer? Is there anything we can do to sort of, you know, provide support for people and stuff like that? So that's how I started, you know. So I creat an awareness talking about it in the community and when I finish my national service, more people were actually asking me to still continue doing that, even though I didn't want to. You are so good they couldn't do without you. So that's how I continued, you know, and registered non profit. And I mean seven years down the line I'm still here, you know. So tell me more about our project, pig blue. Yeah, yeah, thank you very much. So projecting blue is, you know, a consert nonprofit. You know, we are engaging cancer awareness, we're engaging in, you know, cancer out vocacy, policy advocacy, and will also engaging on college your research to provide oncology training to NACIS and doctors know, across the country and in two thousand and fifteen, as I told you earlier, we started the first station navigation in Nigeria, you know, with funding support from Union for International Cancer Control and Fire Zone coology. And right now we have one of the biggest cancer support group in the country. We founded the support groups is the first in, you know, Buja, and right now we have a network with over almost of us, seventy nine women, you know. So we also provide training. Provide training to doctors. In two thousand and eighteen we trained about forty four doctors on medical oncology. The US government actually partnered with us and we brought to American doctors to Nangeria to provide a training. We've done the same with NACIS as well. And every year we have two major flaship program at Project Ping Bloom, we have what we called Walk Ansaday work and we mobilize over three hundred threezero people to walk on the street of a Budja to create awareness. Is a very, very massive project we enjoyed every...

...year. Unfortunately, D see what couldn't do it because of Covid nineteen and in legos, which is the largest city in Nigeria. We also mobilize about Onezero twozero people every October, which is called a pink October event, to walk on the street and create awareness specifically on breast cancer, you know. So we've also worked to support the federal government in Nigeria projecting who have been in the forefront on, you know, bringing about policy change. Right at the moment we don't have an institute or an agency in cancer control. So two thousand and seventeen we're able to get different government and the president to sign a bill to establish the National Institute on't Cancer Research and treatment. Yeah, so we've been doing a lot of work in oncology, raising funds, ensuring that patient voices are heard during Covid when the forefront accent that vast nations to prioritize cancer patient and they should be protected as much as, you know, possible against this infection. Yeah, so that's a little bit about projecting. And you mentioned that there was a shortage of oncology doctors in Nigeria. Do you have any idea why that is? Many factors are responsible for it. Right. Some of the factors that are responsible for having shortage is there is really very power awareness on the area known, as you know, oncology. Oncology is a new area in Nigeria and in many African countries. So because the new area, many doctors in residents really don't know about oncology to probably when they are, when they're about to start their residence program so the training program is really poor in the sense like you know, in other countries like the US and the UK, Australia, the you know, many high income countries, you have oncologies that are broken down into medical oncology and radiation oncology, but right now the training that we have is more what we call the clinical oncology, having the two of them as one. So the training is poor also. Secondly, there is a very poor working condition for doctors here, so most of the doctors will prefer to go to high income countries, in ones they finish their doctor as they finish our training, the usually love to travel out of the country because they get better pay. Even nurses, they get better paid, they get better life welfare package and you know, stuff like that. Other reasons as well. It is probably, you know, very poor government support. The government is not really supporting the health care as it's supposed to. Be, you know. So the guys find it very doctors find it very easy to just go to the US, go to UK and Australia where kind of better quality of life that and unfortunately they're the patients would suffer exactly stuff. You also mentioned survivorship and how there are very many stories of survivorship. Yeah, and Nigeria that are better kind of centered we are. Survivorship is such an interesting topic to discuss in Nigeria and Africa, you know, because it's that is a topic that is really discused, because many of the can sufficient don't survive. I mean five worship is defined from the five years post treatment. Or many of them don't even make it, you know. So where are the stories to share? You know, survivorship will really happen when there are sufficient treatment centers, when there are enough...

...doctors to provide better care. In the country we have about eleven radiotherapy centers. Out of the eleven raitrapy centers, only four or three are working at the time. All the others are all broken down and out of the eleven centers, about four or five of these centers all COBOT, you know, kobot machine and cobod machine I like very, very old machine that are no longer used in many countries of the world. You know the I mean the gold standard nights, more of a linear are a celebrator. That the Linux, you know. Yeah, so you know survivorship is so, so difficult because you know many, most of the patient it's is the pressing for doctors, is the pressing for oncologist, is the pressing forever of people who are working in oncology care and could really be more frustrating because you see these beautiful patients, you support them. For us we raise a lot of money. Sometimes we raise almost like thirtyzero dollars for a single patients because there is no insurance. There's no insurance in the country. Only five percent of the country is covered by insurance. So every other person pay, you know, with his our own pocket. In me, as I'm talking to you today, if I'm down with cancer today, I'm not sure I can afford treatment, you know. So because of that, people can get a dark not a diagnosis today and they are told you're going to spend like maybe like fivezero dollars for your keymo therapy and they could spend three months looking for the money or six month looking for the money before they come back. A Stage two breast cancer has become a stage three impress cancer and probably has metastasized or the part of the body. So that's a challenge. So this is multiple factors. Are What is really affecting survivorship and it's making is small difficult by the day to record survivals and records by worship stories, because they're just that that population. They have them happy access to treatment to get to even get to survivorship exactly. So many of our listeners are oncology staff and of course their dirty is stressful, not nearly a stressful, I'm sure, as in your country. How do they keep their heads up? How do they keep going every day? What but inspires and do you think? You See, interestingly, we have been very lucky to have some of the best humans on Earth walking in Oncology in Nigeria and many African country I really do. You know, want to apologize to anyone who feels happy for me saying these guys are the best. You know, I'm sorry, but you know we are really they're the best because, you know, walking in a community, in a country where the facilities are not available, where you don't even have one single pets can in the entire country. We don't have it. Pets can entire country. The marchins are all this down, you know, and there opportunities opening for you to go to any part of the world to get the best ones, a complete and it's often yeah, yes, just wrote power bout. Oh yes, so these guys really take their time, you know, out of passion, out of PETROTISM, out of empathy, empathy for cancer patients. They all stay back to provide the best possible care they could with the limited resources, with the limited infrastructure, with, you know, all the challenges. The steed back to really give the best care. That's why I see them as really, you know, the best people, you know adds, because there's no way you're going to compare what they have access to to...

...what other people in all the part of the world have access to. So working in oncology is really difficult here because they wake up, they come to the hospitals to see patients and on a clinic day, two or three oncologies who are working in the same team could see almost seventy conser patient in a day. And you're seeing seventy concer patients and you're seeing not disease areas, you're seeing different disease areas. So you see a clinical oncologists provide oncologic care for breasts, provides for head and neck cancer, provides for Austrogenics, Acoma, provides for all sorts of cancers, you know, because if you don't do it, nobody would do it. That's no, we don't have many for you to say like, Oh, I am a GI oncologist, I'm a GI patient navigator, you know, like in the US. Are So sorry, we have to we have to recommend se Agi farmacy, a GI. These are a breast on college. I'm a breast sergeant. I'm a no, you kind of do no such things there, you know. So they are really being almost everything. The oncologist provide radiation oncology, they provide radio radios therapy treatment, radition treatment. They also provide chemo therapy. You see one person at all. It needs a lot of work, you know. And you know because because most of the facilities here are really not super super big, very limited area of research, most of the clinicians find very little time to invest in other things, invest like time for them to read, time, time for them to have some holiday because the clinical work load is so much. Clink who work load is so so much on them, you know. Yeah, so, yeah, that's a shame. They but they must be incredible people, so self sacrificing to work so hard and such difficult circumstances. And then we have coronavirus, which changes a lot in the practice. Can you speak to how how care has changed because of the latest pandemic? Yeah, a lot has really changed, you know, to be honest, to some extent many clinicians in Africa and in Nigeria really grateful that that is a really pandemic that has come, sort of come and shake health systems and get yes, and shake the health system and get the politicians and get the government to see they need to invest in health care. It exposed a lot of exactly. You know, I'm not sure. I'm not sure I'm using the right word in terms of saying we appreciate the pandemic. That's not the right word, but I think something upright side, something good to come out of all the suffering. Yes, truly, the pandemic is really a very bad thing because it's truly disrupted economy is instructed. The intire system. But it's also has its own benefit, especially for low income come with like Nigeria, because showed that really the health care system is so fragile. And interesting thing was that it showed that there is need to bring in more investment in cancer control, my investment in health care. So within one,...

...two thousand and nineteen, within twenty twenty, you'll have twenty twenty, health care has seen biggest funding the healthcare has never experienced before. Funding from government, funding, from all different sets of funding, from even private sectments. So that's really happens. Has Changed, we've developed. We've had more molecular laboratories in two thousand and twenty in down than we have ever had for the past twenty years. Almost out of the vote that the six state of the country. Half of the states now have molecular laboratories. So really see how things has really changed because of this pandemic and I've also think people have become more aware about health but to be more cautious. People are taking more, you know, extra efforts to care for themselves, you know, and also care for people around them. That in terms of working oncology, it has also been able to sort of, although a delayed treatment, a lot deleted whole bunch of treatment for you. has also been able to, you know, create that kind of health consciousness among everyone, you know. So that's a positive change. Yeah, and otherwise negative. So you spoke about how the Covid nineteen vaccine is being promoted in your country, or can you speak more, sorry, about how the vaccine is being promoted in your country and what kind of access do your on college patients have? Interestingly, we're really grateful to the government for listening to our, you know, our our advocacy, because when the vaccine was about coming into the country, all advocates, we are all releasing press statement action the government to ensure that can sufficient a prioritize, and would gratefully happened. You know, when the boxes sign yeah, when the vaccine came in. You know, once we're conservation and you go over there, you just you just get your boxine straight ahead. That's wonderful. Yeah, which is really good. At least they get protect themselves, you know, from the covid nineteen, you know, infection. Yeah, so the vaccine. Yeah, the vaccine arrived from the UK, I think few weeks ago. All right, now they're really you know, vaccinating millions of people, which is good, you know. So hopefully the infrastructure from this vaccine should all so be, you know, sustained for other vaccination programs like HPV, as I say that, you know, would be. Yes, you did mention the issue of HPV and like of awareness. Can you speak tell me a little bit more about that, about vaccine accents, HPV vaccine access in your country? Okay, so in Langeria we have what we call the National National Voccin national routine immunization program so the National Routine Innovation Program is list of vaccines that the government have actually put in place that people can receive absolutely free of charge and it's part of the routine immunization. So what that means is that this specific basin, like polio vaccine, is routine. You know, BCG is routine, and a whole bunch of orders. You Know Bots, the human populum virus vaccine, it's not part of that national vaccination program so what that means is that if it does a gale of fourteen years who needed to get the hbvy vaccine, or a woman who wants to get hby vaccine, she has to pay for it. have off sent as an extra, well twenty to thirty dollars, of thirty pounds to get... So invariably many women and many girls can afford that because it's expensive to buy, you know, and it's also not that accessible, because going to be fine it in major cities. So but if the government kind of you know, get this vaccine and put it a part of the national program it becomes very easy and people can get it as a routine basing that once you're so so age, you just go to health clinic and you get a shot, just sucky with any other. That's exactly that's really the major problem. So that's really a huge program because other countries of the world and vaccinating their population massively, we are not basmating and civical cancer is a serious disease in Nigeria, you know, more people are dying. It's actually number two, after break is actually after breast cancer. civical cancer is the leading in terms of cancer of women, and that is happening because that's in the prevention is really low, unlike another part of the world. We are long Kansas like number one and then, you know, possibly breast cancer a number two. Nice area, but in Nigeria right now. We really need to really need a sort of, you know, global collaboration to ensure that access to one part normal virrels vaccine. It's really accessible. To be honest. For me personally, I see it as I see it from the perspective of social injustice. I see it as global injustice that is really really faced all over the world, you know, because the cost of fact, the cost of human partnum of Arrows vaccine in countries like Manjaria and many other low income countries, like in Asia and or the rest, is almost the same prize in high income countries. So the former companies should really re evaluate global access to hhtv vaccine. And we think about why would the rich country pay the same thing as the poor countries, you know. Yeah, so this is a question that I really get to be answered. You double a choice being a good walk in terms of and show bringing about the global strategy to eliminate civical cancer, because civical cancer in reality can be eliminated in many countries, has actually been eliminated. Well, you know, as usual, many African countries are still in the back bench. Wouldn't even know how these girls would really have access to this. So I know many of my listeners would like to help. What can they do to beat awareness about oncology in Nigeria and just project piklill? So there are many ways everyone listening to me out there can really help. See, working in oncology in Nigeria and Africa, it's really very tough and for us working in nonprofit, it's more like the power trying to help the power, you know, the funding. It's really not there. Most of the nonprofits just, you know, surviving just from you know, very minor do nations that are coming around the goal. Investment is really low. So one way that I think people listen to me out there can help is to help us really create more awareness, to help us speak to farmer companies, to help us pick to, you know, global donor agencies. You know. I mean just talk about it on any platform that you are on social media, as any conference, you know, and otherwise, you know, because the truth is just a stack, is a stack injustice. You know, the stack injustice. You know, and if people,...

...more people talk about it, and not just me, if more people talk about it, you know the change is going to be closed, you know, to us. You know and then also people who would want to probably support the work that we are doing a project thing do all also be very happy. There are many ways you can support. You can support by partnering with us, you know, by, you know, donating to us. Is just very easy to donate to project Engluse just ww dot projecting. Blue Dot Org donates and you see the dont bottom and, you know, donate whatever you can give. You can also decide that you just want to donate monthly to patients specifically or to donate some specific projects. You know, feel free to email us and get more details, you know, and you know I mean we've also really had people who had called us from different part of the world and see it just want to volunteer for us, and we're always very happy to have volunteers from different part of the world because sometimes when they volunteer for all, they use their bed day, they use their bed day or their mom's late mom adversary or something to respond with awareness and you know, stuff like that. Yeah, so, yeah, and then we've also had other way you can also help is to partner with us. If you have any project that you do, if you have any research project that you're doing. You know you want to partner with also you want to enshow that people also from Africa are included in your research. Is Not hasty to reach out us and the very, very happy to in good AU patients, hope you and getting it six up, Poo Ballo, idea, about to call it dat a here. So of course we want we want to be included. We don't just want to be on the box side about what's happening on the change. So we all want to see in oncology. Excellent. So I will be including the link to project pink blue and an email address or you can keep in touch. So if you want to volunteer or donate, all that information will be there at your fingertips. This has been working in oncology and I'm here with run see feed w t day day. All right, heat. Thank you. You have been a wonderful guest. Are You satisfied with your patients currency to therapy or are you just settling? You can improve patient outcomes with bioplus specialty pharmacies. Power of two, the first ever two hour, two day to gather promise. It's faster and easier for you and your patients to learn more visit bioplus rxcom you've been listening to working in oncology. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening in Apple Podcast, we've love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Just have the number of stars you get the podcast deserves. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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