Greater capacity to treat children with specific cancers

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Dr. Chantelle Browne-Farmer, Barbados’ second trained paediatric hematologist/oncologist following a Sandals Foundation sponsored fellowship with the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada.

Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean now have a greater capacity to treat children with specific cancers and blood disorders following the return of Dr. Chantelle Brown-Farmer to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

Dr. Browne-Farmer is the second trained paediatric hematologist and oncologist on the island, having completed a three year fellowship with the Hospital for Sick Children in Ontario Canada, made possible through a Sandals Foundation investment of over US$150,000.  Hospital for Sick Children, more commonly referred to as SickKids, is a major paediatric teaching hospital.

She said, The training received will now assist in enhancing the speed with which we can make a diagnosis, initiate treatment as well as improve consistency in the management of our patients, because we now have two persons in the specialty. We also now have a better platform for advocating for the patients we treat at the QEH as we have enhanced the capacity to handle the increasing patient load.”

Dr. Browne-Farmer is also hopeful that her fellowship will boost efforts to streamline patient care as it relates to specific cancers and blood disorders.

She noted that her overall experience was a transformative one both as a health professional and as an individual. “As a health professional it was a privilege to experience the practice of child and family centered care at a world renowned institution such as the Hospital for Sick Children. I would like to think that it has changed the way that I approach the practice of medicine as a pediatrician.

“Additionally, I was able to experience the practice of evidence-based medicine first hand from start-to-finish, as I was involved in the management of patients on clinical trials and saw those results become standard practice. Except for Jamaica, this is not common in the Caribbean because we are not frequently part of clinical trials.

“I therefore hope that research can be a bigger part of the island’s overall practice. The opportunity to forge relationships with people from all over the world, not just the staff from SickKids but other international fellows who were in the programme was also a plus. I know that these relationships mean that I have more resources I can call on if I have difficult cases here in Barbados.”

The fellowship was a part of phase-two of a Caribbean SickKids initiative, the aim of which is to enhance the capacity to treat children with blood disorders and cancers in the Caribbean as well as expand the available resources in the region, in addition to improving the ability of care-givers to treat children with these disorders.

Dr. Browne Farmer noted that to this end, training is not only targeted at physicians, but also nurses, surgeons and social workers among other specialties.  It also seeks to build relationships with pharmaceutical companies in order to enhance access to medication, as well as to improve inter-island collaboration with the goal of effecting better patient management in the Caribbean.

In thanking the Sandals Foundation for their involvement and the enhancement of this specialized service for Barbados, Browne-Farmer added that the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International truly has the best interest of Caribbean people at heart.

“The Foundation was critical in terms of being able to pursue the fellowship. I had to be sponsored as the SickKids programme requires that international medical graduates have sponsorship (from their country or some other private entity) because these doctors will not be funded by the Canadian government. I am sure that Sandals Foundation saw that the Sick Kids Caribbean initiative was pursuing quite a worthy cause in terms of trying to bring the region as close as possible to the level of the developed world, as it relates to dealing with these patients.

“Therefore, the Foundation very graciously agreed to fund my fellowship and it’s the only reason why I am here today. I would have to say that the Sandals Foundation was very forward thinking in that respect and I would hope that the day will come when I can do the Foundation proud in terms of being able to forward the plight of pediatric blood disorders and cancers in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.”

Executive Director with the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke stated that the organization remains committed to working alongside talented doctors and nurses, as well as hospitals in the region in an effort to build capacity and ensure healthier outcomes for Caribbean residents.

She said, “In addition to Barbados, the Sandals Foundation has assisted in the training of doctors and nurses in several Caribbean countries, including the Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Lucia. The team at the Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life within the communities that Sandals Resorts International operates, and one way to effect change is to ensure the availability of high quality health care options.

“Therefore, Dr. Browne-Farmer’s return should serve to enhance the capacity for the early diagnosis and treatment of children with certain cancers and blood disorders. Dr. Browne-Farmer’s fellowship would also have exposed her to various treatment options and diagnostic tools, better equipping her to streamline procedures, treatments and the procurement of medications to improve the level of paediatric hematology and oncology care in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.”