MOU signed to advance the diagnosis and treatment of gynecological cancer in The Bahamas

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the University of West Indies School of Clinical Medicine and Research, The Bahamas; University of Miami Leonard Miller School of Medicine; and the International Gynecological Cancer Society to provide collaborative training to advance the diagnosis and treatment of gynecological cancer in The Bahamas. The MOU was signed April 25, 2019 at the UWI School of Clinical Medicine and Research, located on the compound of Princess Margaret Hospital. (BIS Photo/Derek Smith)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The University of West Indies (UWI) School of Clinical Medicine and Research (SCMR) The Bahamas, in conjunction with the University of Miami (UM), Leonard Miller School of Medicine, and the International Gynecological Cancer Society (IGCS) announced a healthcare partnership that is hoped to reverse the “unacceptable” rate of ovarian cancer in The Bahamas.

Dr. Robin Roberts, Director, UWI SCMR announced the official launch of a fellowship training programme between the faculty of Medical Sciences of UWI in The Bahamas at the Princess Margaret Hospital, and the University of Miami during a press conference held last Thursday, April 25, 2019.

Among those present for the formal announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding was Mary Eiken, CEO, IGCS; Dr. Michael Paidas, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics, UM; Dr. Brian Slomovitz, Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology; Dr. Matthew Schlumbrecht, Director for the Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship; Dr. Raleigh Butler, Consultant, Coordinator Gynecologic Oncology Fellowships, UWI SCMR; Dr. Darron Halliday and Dr. Geremias Rangel.

Dr. Roberts said the two-year programme will allow specialists in obstetrics and gynecology to further advance in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers arising in the reproductive organs of women and to become designated gynecological cancer experts.

“Every month in The Bahamas, on average, we bury at least one woman who dies from cancer of the cervix. This should not happen today. In the modern practice of medicine no woman should die from cervical cancer. It’s a totally preventable disease.

“We know too that cancer of the ovary is deadly. We diagnose on average one per month in The Bahamas; almost 75% die from their disease. We know that we can detect this long before it occurs because up to 40% of our women inherit the gene that causes this ovarian cancer. We can prevent these deaths too if we have a genetic screening programme for relatives of women who are diagnosed with this disease,” said Dr. Roberts.

Dr. Roberts described the partnership as a “red letter” day in health in The Bahamas. He said the Fellowship was launched in July 2018 and aims to “reduce” and “eradicate” the burden of female reproductive cancers in “low resource” countries including The Bahamas.

“I would be remiss not to inform that this collaboration between our PMH departments, the Oncology Unit at PMH, the UWI and UM commenced some time ago with the highlight being the discovery of the breast cancer gene mutations in Bahamian women. The research revealed that The Bahamas has the highest occurrence of breast cancer genes in the world,” said Dr. Roberts.

“The collaborative research between our institutions is ongoing; but more importantly this rich collegial environment we have created, fosters direct patient consultation in the daily management and care of our patients and for the transfer of patients between us which lends for continuing and coordinated cancer care.”

In addition to The Bahamas, gynecologists will be stationed and trained in Florida, Canada, Ireland, the University of Miami in Florida, and throughout the Caribbean.

The programme is funded by the International Gynecological Cancer Society and the University of Miami.

Dr. Geremias Rangel, a native of Guyana, is the first Fellow.  Dr. Saida Bowe, is the first Bahamian Fellow in the programme and is posted at University of Miami.

Mrs. Eiken said through the partnership, the burden of the disease can be reduced in the region through awareness, highly trained surgical skills, screening, vaccination and other ways.

She said the International Gynecological Cancer Society will provide not only resources and funding but also some of the infrastructure and educational exchanges that will happen as part of the fellowship training and examination to cause a certificate to be issued to the trainee.

Cases will be tracked and information logged in a system.

An oversight committee will monitor the progress of the Fellows ensuring that they are progressing along a designated path to completion.

This article was written by Kathryn Campbell – Bahamas Information Services.