What do you say when a terminally ill child asks you, “Doctor, what will happen to me?” It’s a heart breaking question, no matter where in the world you are.
I’m writing this from Accra, Ghana, where yesterday ASCO concluded an EPEC-Oncology workshop on palliative care organized in conjunction with the Africa Oxford Cancer Foundation and the Ghana Health Service, and supported by the Open Society Institute and the National Cancer Institute. The workshop was led by Ghanaian and international faculty that included Ghanaian ASCO member Dr. Verna Vanderpuye and US ASCO members Dr. Jamie Von Roenn and Dr. Michael Fisch. Under spinning fans in a packed lecture hall at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, we covered ground ranging from the very practical, such as what pain medications are available in Ghana and methods for assessing pain, to challenging discussions of ethics and patient communications and, yes, how to answer the question above.
One of the highlights was when the participants took over the role-playing session to show how doctor-patient communications really play out in Ghana.
At the end of the last day of the workshop, after learning about successful models for palliative care in Uganda, Tanzania and Egypt, the attendees - more than 100, many nurses, others doctors, social workers, and pharmacists, mobilized by the Ghana Health Service from virtually every region of Ghana – identified from among their ranks palliative care representatives who will serve as critical points of contact for follow up and next steps.
It has been an exciting few days, and we look forward to supporting our Ghanaian partners and colleagues in this very important work.
ASCO International Affairs