ONS Member Travels to South Africa

When young people are diagnosed with cancer, regardless of the type, it feels particularly heartbreaking. When they’re forced to face such a deadly disease, they deserve treatment that gives them the best chance at survival. Unfortunately, not all parts of the world are equal. On average, survival rates in low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries can be as low as 5%, compared to 80% in high-income countries.

ONS member Linda Abramovitz, RN, MSN, BMTCN, recently travelled to Cape Town, South Africa, to attend the 47th Congress of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) in October 2015. She was just one of 1,400 oncology professionals in attendance to discuss the fight against childhood and young adult cancers. 

One of the keynote lectures was “Paediatric Oncology Nursing: Breaking Ground, Changing Policy” by Joyce Oppong-Ayisi, RN, and Lorne Renner, MD, a nurse and physician, respectively, from Ghana. Another session dealt with adolescent and young adult cancers, showing a clip from the film The Fault in Our Stars. 10 nurses from LMICs were also presented with “My Child Matters” awards, funded by Sanofi-Espoir Foundation, for projects to help fight childhood cancer and improve the care of children with cancer in resource-limited settings. 

“80% of children who diagnosed with cancer each year live in low- and middle-income countries,” Abramovitz said. “Nurses from LMICs are often challenged by the limited scope of their professional practice, resources, and education. SIOP provides nurses with an opportunity for education, networking, and professional growth.”

Working Together to Give Back

Prior to travelling to South Africa, Abramovitz, who is co-chair of SIOP’s Pediatric Oncology in Developing Countries Nurse Working Group, made arrangements with ONS’s national library to transport donated pediatric oncology nursing books and journals. Many of these print pieces were published by the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses.

Because of extreme shipping prices to South Africa, Abramovitz and her colleague and fellow conference attendee, Julia Challinor, RN, PhD, volunteered to transport the books themselves to Cape Town. The books were sent first to Washington, DC, where they were then delivered to the SIOP conference in South Africa by Abramovitz and Chillinor personally. 

The books and journals donated weighed more than 100 pounds and were disturbed to nurses from LMICs including Ghana, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Cameroon, and the Pacific Islands. They were grateful for the donations, as it provided them with the knowledge and resources to improve the care of patients with cancer, help families members involved, and to empower their own nursing practice.

One of the objectives in the 2016-2018 ONS strategic plan is to “expand ONS’s global impact," and this is just one of the ways ONS is working to achieve that goal.

Reporting by Chris Pirschel, ONS staff writer, and Mark Vrabel, MLS, AHIP, ELS, information resources supervisor for the ONS national office library