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One Year Later: An IDEA Recipient Reconnects with Mentors at Massachusetts General Hospital

Sep 23, 2014

I am originally from Manila, Philippines. My mother, a medical oncologist, inspired me to enter the field of oncology. She is my personal hero and idol, although she doesn't know this. She is hardworking, patient, and dedicated to her patients, and I feel the meaning of true vocation whenever I see her work. She is an instrument of healing. She's dynamic, enthusiastic about research and teaching, and always shares her knowledge with young oncologists.

Last June, I was fortunate to visit Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as part of the International Development and Education Award (IDEA) granted to me by the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO.

I chose to apply for the IDEA program because I believe we are lifelong learners. One of the best opportunities to grow professionally is through outstanding mentors, who can help us accelerate the transfer of knowledge and skills in our respective home countries. The IDEA program creates a venue to hone one's interests and talents and channel it to a greater purpose—to improve health care at home. Despite limitations different countries may experience, the IDEA program inspired us to become more committed, and to realize together we can create a change—even a small change—to fight and conquer cancer. 

My interest in breast cancer grew when I became part of arranging our breast cancer advocacy program at my center. Aligned with the noble cause, my passion grew with continuous work on patient education, screening, diagnosis, treatment, research and patient survivorship. 

Dr. Aditya Bardia with Dr. Herdee Gloriane C. Luna 
Under the supervision of Dr. Aditya Bardia and Dr. Lidia Schapira, my interest in breast cancer and research grew as both doctors generously shared their time and knowledge with me. My mentors helped improve my research objectives and ideas through constant communication. With their guidance, my abstract, “Feasibility and Clinical Utility of Molecular Profiling among Metastatic Cancer Patients: A Cancer Center Experience in Philippines” was published online.

Of course, I wanted to continue at MGH, not only because they have an excellent breast cancer program but also because it was a chance to continue working with my mentors from my IDEA experience.

The Avon Foundation for Women Global Clinical Breast Cancer Program aims to provide intensive training in different Avon Foundation-funded breast cancer centers in the United States so that participants can bring home the knowledge to help women and patients with breast cancer. For me, the program provided enhanced knowledge and skills through clinical observation and dialogue between different breast cancer specialists. Through the inspiration of the different breast cancer teams and their functions, the exposure served as a good opportunity to assess strengths and weaknesses of the programs at home, and find ways to improve them. The mentors also imparted valuable advice and wisdom in addressing health-related concerns. Indeed, the experience sparked my creativity in helping patients with breast cancer and in improving quality of care at home. The three-week program started at the end of May 2014.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Paul E. Goss, together with a team of experts including Drs. Aditya Bardia, Lidia Schapira, Michaela J. Higgins, and Jennifer A. Shin, my second stint at MGH further improved my knowledge about breast cancer, its management, and patient approaches. I also learned more about the multidisciplinary team approach and management, the breast cancer center structure (both hospital-based and health center), the components and importance of a breast cancer team (including nurses and social workers), databases, screenings, and patient navigation. My mentors were very effective in fueling my passion in this profession.

The Conquer Cancer Foundation IDEA and the Avon Foundation Global Clinical Breast Cancer Program provided an amazing opportunity to study with the best, and in turn, the staff at MGH made me feel like I have a family far away from home, ready to help improve the different aspects of a young medical oncologist’s journey toward her dream of creating a small change in her community.

Herdee Gloriane C. Luna, MD is a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City, Philippines.

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