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Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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Brazil receives its first cancer care clinic


Brazil receives its first cancer treatment facility.

For far too long, cancer patients in Lesotho believed that life-changing cancer treatment was out of reach. There were no oncology clinics in their landlocked country, which was surrounded by South Africa and surrounded by steep mountains. Those hoping for treatment travelled for hours through mountains to reach Bloemfontein, South Africa. Some patients travelled across the ocean to India for treatment, spending weeks away from their families.

Care was simply not an option for sicker patients, or for the many patients who were struggling to provide food and shelter for their families. Until now, that is.

In July, a cancer patient in Lesotho received the country's first chemotherapy infusion. The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation collaborated with government officials and local staff on this historic event, including Dr. Pearl Ntekhe, director of the Senkatana Oncology Clinic in Maseru, Lesotho, and Dr. Kabelo Mputsoe, who administered the treatment at Senkatana.
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation supports pharmacists and oncology nurses in Lesotho by providing extensive resources and in-service training. Increasing the number of oncology-trained local healthcare providers will help ensure the program's long-term viability.

A moment of peer support: "Dr. Pearl" understands the difficulty of treatment and the importance of patient comfort as a cancer survivor.
Speaking softly, Dr. Pearl recalls, “When I had cancer, I learned firsthand that patients encounter many problems traveling to receive treatment. The journey is long and difficult, and our transportation is often unreliable.”

She emphasized, “It was important to me to work towards a better experience for patients.”

She frequently demonstrates empathy by gently patting a shoulder, tucking in a blanket, nodding her head, carefully listening to concerns, and always providing clear, thoughtful answers to questions.

Over 20 years ago, the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation established the Senkatana Centre of Excellence Clinic as Lesotho's first anti-retroviral clinic to combat HIV/AIDS. Those early lessons enabled them to expand to address tuberculosis in Lesotho and, more recently, cancer diagnosis and treatment. Historically, low diagnosis rates have resulted from a lack of locally trained oncology healthcare providers and low patient awareness.

Disease education and communication will go a long way toward reducing the cultural stigma and fear of cancer, enticing potential patients to seek early diagnoses, raising awareness of local care, and, most importantly, providing hope. Support from loved ones, as well as hearing the stories of other patients, can be beneficial.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, in collaboration with the Rutgers Institute for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowships, offers a 12-month Public Health Residency Program that contributes significantly to the development of local care.

Alejandro Nava was chosen for the program and will be teaching cancer care at Senkatana Clinic for six months. He collaborated with the staff to prepare for the first chemotherapy infusion and walked the patient through the entire process. The residency program's primary goal is to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities in underserved, under-resourced areas.

“She had been worried about having to travel far away for her treatment. She told me that she couldn’t believe she was being treated here at home. She never thought she would be able to receive treatment among people speaking her native language, Sesotho. She thought it was a dream,” said Dr. Pearl.

When patients arrive for their weekly appointments, their bloodwork may indicate that they require hydration, medication, or nutrients before their next infusion. Because a large proportion of Lesotho's population suffers from nutritional deficiencies, the clinic recommends canned nutritional supplements that address specific needs. The visits conclude with recommendations for appropriate, consistent follow-up care, which is critical to cancer recovery.

After three weeks, the first patient begins to feel better and more at ease with the cancer team. More than 20 patients are receiving cancer treatment and follow-up care at Senkatana three months after it opened.
The patient and her family are grateful that she was the first person in Lesotho, a country of more than 2 million people, to receive chemotherapy treatment.
That initial infusion in July was the result of years of planning and collaboration to improve Lesotho's access to healthcare.

The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation established the first Comprehensive Cancer Care Centre of Excellence in Soweto, South Africa's fourth largest city, last year. The facility and its local team provide cancer care to approximately 1.8 million residents.
To learn about the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, click here.