A 28-member team of health care professionals from Duke University Medical Center is carrying nine tons of surplus medical equipment and donated supplies to the 1500-bed New Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. Mulago Hospital staff will be trained to use and maintain the new equipment then surgeons from both countries will join in conducting a number of brain and spinal surgeries.

The project is administered by Duke’s Global Health Institute.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Lost Dream

Michelle Gailiun writes:
I also had the chance to visit the Uganda Cancer Institute today, where I met this little girl, Salifa Nakiyuka, who had come with her mother from a village far away in Eastern Uganda a few days ago.
The director of the Institute, Dr. Jackson Orem, suspects she has either retinoblastoma or Burkitt's lymphoma. Interestingly, the hospital ( before it became an institute) was originally dedicated to Denis Burkitt, an Irish surgeon who worked here in the 1950s and who was the first to describe the tumor that can lead to huge growths like this one that targets jaws and abdomens.
The Institute is a bleak and dismal place, even though Orem says Case Western Reserve, Johns Hopkins and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center all have active research programs here. The NCI (National Cancer Institute) originally funded the place, drawn by the Burkitt's research, but pulled out support during Idi Amin's brutal regime and never looked back.
So here's how cancer treatment works today: A patient comes in, say, with a breast tumor. They can image and stage it. Then, the doctors give the woman a prescription for chemotherapy and tell her she has to go find the drugs somewhere and pay for them, and if she brings them back, they can administer them.
It's a blunderbuss approach, even when it works. They don't have any way of testing tumors here for any markers that can guide treatment. Everyone is automatically put on Tamoxifen, since they can't tell who has a hormone-sensitive tumor and who does not.
Another note...Orem says 60 per cent of the patients here have Kaposi's sarcoma, a complication of HIV infection. I am saying a prayer for Salifa tonight. And tomorrow.