Medical Students as Agents of Change

Medical Students as Agents of Change

International Perspectives

Feb 03, 2016

World Cancer Day logoBy Fredrick Chite Asirwa, MD

When I was a medical student and the leader of Rotaract at my medical school, the greatest scourge happened: HIV/AIDs was killing people by truckloads at my teaching hospital and all around us. There was very little knowledge by the general public then and a lot of myths. As medical students we set out with the only weapon we had—knowledge—and went to more than 40 high schools to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

When a group of medical students approached me to help lead their efforts towards cancer awareness in various schools in Western Kenya, I gladly agreed.

These medical students had written brochures on breast cancer, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer. They were looking for very basic assistance to transport them to the sites, make thousands of copies of these brochures, and help them answer some difficult cancer questions. We partnered and made it happen.

To date, they have successfully mounted cancer awareness campaigns in more than 30 high schools in the region, reaching more than 30,000 high school students. They debunk myths, educate, assist with proper referral patterns, and above all, they learn a lot about cancer, too.

When most of the medical schools have very little information in their curricula on cancers, the involvement of medical students in various aspects of cancer care is commendable and should be encouraged.

I know that some of them have been inspired to pursue oncology in the future so that they can do more for the patients with cancer and communities at large. I am looking forward to that day in the future when one of them will be writing a piece like this.

In the fight against cancer, involvement of medical students is key. They are responsive to today’s challenges and can be mentored into great agents of change that the world needs.

Learn more about how you can support World Cancer Day.

Dr. Asirwa is a principal investigator at Indiana University-Moi University’s AMPATH Oncology and Hematology, Executive Director of Beacon Health Services in Kenya, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Indiana University, and Field Director of Hematology and Oncology Programs at AMPATH at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Read more posts in ASCO Connection’s blog series on World Cancer Day:

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