Cytologists’ Response to Botswana’s Appeal for Help ‘Astounding’
Monday, March 24, 2014
Cervical cancer—the leading cause of cancer death for women in sub-Saharan Africa—is a serious threat for women who have HIV/AIDS. Although antiretroviral drugs are extending the lives of many living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, more women are now dying from non-communicable diseases, such as cancer.
Early detection of cervical cancer remains elusive. Many resource-limited countries such as Botswana face a shortage of resources, including cytologists, leaving a backlog of specimens to be reviewed.
“ASCP is leading the way in global activities among professional organizations. This initiative speaks to the Society’s commitment to expand access to health care for women and girls. The talent to accomplish this lies within ASCP’s membership. Our members want to share their skills, and they realize they can learn something, too.”
—Don Simpson, PhD, MPH, CT(ASCP)
When ASCP announced it was seeking 10 cytologists to send to Botswana in May to alleviate a backlog of 7,500 Pap slides, 225 members volunteered within 24 hours. Altogether, more than 300 members have now offered to make the trip.
“The response from our members is astounding,” says Don Simpson, PhD, MPH, CT(ASCP), Chair of the Department of Laboratory Sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas. Simpson also directs the UAMS Office of Global Health and will lead the delegation to Botswana. “ASCP is leading the way in global activities among professional organizations. This initiative speaks to the Society’s commitment to expand access to health care for women and girls.
“The talent to accomplish this lies within ASCP’s membership. Our members want to share their skills, and they realize they can learn something, too.”
The Botswana Ministry of Health has invited ASCP to send 10 cytologists to Gaborone, Botswana, from May 17 to June 1 to work alongside local cytologists at the University of Botswana’s student laboratory. During the second week, Joel M. Shilling, MD, FASCP, Immediate Past President of ASCP, will travel to Botswana to read any slides that appear abnormal.
This collaboration began a year ago when Doreen Ramogola-Masire, MD, at the National Health Laboratory in Gaborone, appealed to ASCP to send a delegation of pathologists to help diagnose the laboratory’s backlog of 2,000 specimens. Dr. E. Blair Holladay, ASCP Executive Vice President, Dr. Shilling, and ASCP volunteers Von G. Samedi, MD, and Martha C. Hales, MD, FASCP, traveled to Botswana to tackle the Herculean task.
“By uniting our members’ skills with the strengths of global and local organizations to fund new equipment and educate histotechnicians and other laboratory staff, ASCP can play a pivotal role in improving quality health care for patients in Botswana and throughout sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr. Shilling said at the time.
ASCP subsequently established an alliance with the Botswana Ministry of Health, the University of Botswana, and the Bush Institute, which initiated the Pink Ribbon, Red Ribbon campaign for prevention and early detection of breast and cervical cancer. Their focus is to strengthen the nation’s laboratory infrastructure and develop sustainable solutions to provide earlier detection of cervical cancer.
The Botswana Ministry of Health’s invitation offers ASCP members an opportunity to elevate the stature of the medical laboratory profession, while devising a sustainable plan for the future to benefit patients and their health.
To learn more about the collaboration with Botswana, click here to read the April 2013 issue of Critical Values.