A Global Health Opportunity for Senior Cancer and Healthcare Professionals and Retirees
The opportunity: Whether a physician, physicist, economist, nurse, social worker or other healthcare professional, there comes a phase in life when it may be time to change pace in one’s profession. The opportunity to keep busy intellectually by using one’s professional knowledge to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as well as in geographically underserved regions in upper-income countries (UICs) as with indigenous people, is a distinct privilege for those inclined to do so in the latter years of his or her career. The need for experienced people is large as illustrated just by the size of the radiation therapy gap, estimated to be ~5000 megavoltage machines and the supporting personnel in LMICs. There is an extraordinary opportunity for healthcare professionals, industry, academia, and governments to form a global partnership to address this gap in cancer care and improve the quality and quantity of life for so many.
The ICEC: The International Cancer Expert Corps (ICEC) is a non-governmental, not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the mission of improving the total care of cancer patients in LMICs as well as among geographically disadvantaged populations in developed countries. The ICEC offers senior professionals and retirees an opportunity to mentor early and mid-career cancer care professionals in these regions as well as those from UICs pursuing careers in global health. There is a great need for high-quality mentoring by experts in the full spectrum of cancer care delivery as well as in non-medical aspects of healthcare systems to guide the people providing the infrastructure for and the care of cancer patients in these underserved settings. Mentoring builds on existing (“twinning”) and to-be-formed relationships among institutions in resource-rich countries and cancer facilities in the less developed parts of the world.
The ICEC supports a unique model of sustainable mentoring by a global network of cancer care professionals using the best practices available with the goal of making the entire spectrum of cancer care accessible to all who need it. ICEC recognizes that a challenge of this magnitude requires innovative thinking and collaboration among many experts from a range of healthcare sectors as well as sustainable efforts from people who seek to address compelling global shortcomings in cancer care.
How it is accomplished: In ICEC’s operational model, ICEC Experts, working through a designated ICEC Hub (e.g. medical center, university hospital, private practice or professional society), develop a long-term working relationship with the LMIC institution (“ICEC Center”), and the Center’s “ICEC Associate” and their health care team (such as physicians, radiologists, physicist, nurses, technologists, data managers, pharmacists, administrators, etc.). Subsequent mentoring by the Experts will be done primarily through teleconferencing and telecommunications. The initial contact could require a 1-3 week visit to the ICEC Center or might be established without required travel through an existing relationship among ICEC Experts with an ICEC Center and their Associates. These mentorship teams of Experts and Associates will be guided by a mutually developed multi-year plan emphasizing leadership by the Associates, with metrics for progress designed to improve the quality of care delivered to cancer patients using ICEC-approved guidelines or protocols. These teams will enlist support from different specialists, the makeup of which will evolve over time, all working in an atmosphere of mutual trust based upon the underpinning person-to-person long-term relationships. Thus, each Expert will be part of one or more healthcare teams that he or she will be instrumental in forming and supporting.
To meet ICEC’s goals of expertise and mentorship, there is a need for retirees and senior mentors who have the wealth of skills and experience, often reaching back to technologies and protocols appropriate for the stage of development in an LMIC. Furthermore, retirees and senior mentors often have great flexibility in being able to schedule weekly patient-care conference calls and/or to answer specific questions regarding guideline- or protocol-based patient care with their ICEC Associates or related infrastructure support personnel. The anticipated commitment for mentors is 4-8 hours per week, as necessary, and for a multi-year time period (~4-5 years with renewable terms, if desired). Ongoing evaluation and adherence to metrics are important in that much of what ICEC will accomplish will be supported by granting agencies, foundations and donors who look for metrics of progress and appropriate adaptation to justify ongoing support. ICEC will provide Experts a level of financial support to facilitate travel and sustain mentoring expenses.
There will be opportunities for cultural exchange among Experts and Associates including occasional on-site visits and international conferences, however, the emphasis is on sustainable mentorship through weekly scheduled teleconferences and availability for as-needed communications. This aims to make a career in global health similar to that of other academic research and education tracks.
Consider joining: While improving global cancer care is the primary mission of ICEC, another key goal is to establish a career path for altruistic service in both academia and practice. Retirees and senior mentors will have the opportunity to transmit their experience to early and mid-career professionals who will, in turn, recruit altruistic young people to global health careers. Global time zone differences will require creative use of time for international telecommunications that will be provided by ICEC Global Headquarters and ICEC Hubs in the member countries.
The time is now: The need for improved global cancer care and attention to other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A path forward has been outlined elegantly by the Global Task Force for Radiation for Cancer Control for the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). ICEC is in start-up mode and anticipates moving forward in 2016. Thus, ICEC presents an opportunity to retirees and senior mentors to use their life-skills to help reduce the enormous and ever-increasing burden of cancer globally and to establish a unique and sustainable model for career-extending altruistic service. Making such global service an integral part of a healthcare career can greatly improve the level of care for underserved people with cancer and also introduce a sea-change in the value system for healthcare careers. Envision senior professionals breaking new ground alongside young professionals, all working together to improve cancer care in underserved regions and, in turn, making the world a much healthier place.
Expertise has been listed in three general categories of Expert Mentors– medical, science non-medical and supporting disciplines- recognizing there is overlap.
- Radiation oncologists
- Medical oncologists
- Pediatric oncologists
- Surgical oncologists
- Surgeons - general
- Surgical subspecialists
- Public health