Cancer under the Canopy

Imagine if you were ill but your condition was never diagnosed. How would you feel if a loved-one was dying of cancer, but you couldn’t afford their treatment? Many Liberians will never know if they have cancer and those who are diagnosed are faced with an almost impossible problem to fund their treatment in one of the poorest countries in the world. The Liberian Ministry of Health – with many supporters – want to change that.

GSK has given me to opportunity to travel to Liberia for 6 months, to work with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and embed within the Liberian Ministry of Health to help drive that change (but any opinions here are my own, not those of the Ministry of Health, CHAI or GSK) . I joined the team in June and together we have developed our goals: reduce specific cancers through vaccination and information campaigns, develop capability in the health workforce, and build capacity to diagnose and treat target cancers. Next month will see the opening of a new Pathology Laboratory in the main teaching hospital – a vital step for diagnosis and we are building further programmes and projects that take us towards our goals.

Spectacular views from the remains of the Ducor Hotel

After work I run on golden beaches and explore the vibrant streets of Monrovia; I have lost sweaty squash matches in staggering humidity and expanded my horizons through conversation with everyone from barbers to ambassadors.

Meeting the former President, Ms Sirleaf
  • 26 July is Liberian Independence Day and I was honoured to meet former President and Nobel Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at a celebratory concert by the National Academy of Music.

My hope is that I can help Liberia to implement safe, effective and sustainable cancer care – I’d love to hear from you if you have any ideas or experience that could help.

5 comments

  1. Nice to read about your assignment and first impressions from Liberia… Thanks for sharing!
    Please tell us more about who you are (I can’t see your name!) and where you come from?
    I’m Francois, a 2018 GSK Belgium Pulse volunteer with Partners in Health in Rwanda. PIH has set up a treatment center in the North of Rwanda for targetted cancers and I believe there is a lot to learn from that experience which started already several years ago… As PIH is also working in Liberia, I suggest you link up with someone there who could put you in contact with PIH. Alternatively, you can liaise with Steve Walker (GSK US Pulse 2019) who has now followed me working with PIH in Rwanda (although Steve is not working directly on the cancer program). Take care and have an enjoyable experience in Liberia!

    1. Hi Francois, thank you for the information! I met the team from PIH earlier and plan to meet again as you are right, they have some treatment in one of the counties and I hope to learn from their experience. I’ll also reach out to the current PULSE team – thank you. Tony

  2. Nice to hear from you Tony! Good to see you as well in the pic! You have a big problem to solve in Liberia – and I am glad you will be witnessing the opening of a new Pathology Laboratory next month! What an incredible milestone!! Keep us posted, Manu.

  3. Great blog Tony. The current oncology landscape needs a lot of work to help raise awareness of, reduce risk & treat cancer across Liberia. I am sure you will be able to find some way to help through your work with CHAI & the MoH & look forward to hearing more from you soon about the opening of the Pathology lab & your continued work in this area!

  4. Inspiring and meaningful work! Thank you for sharing. Hope you can make a positive impact in the precious time you have in Liberia! Good luck!

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