April 17, 2015
SickKids Foundation raises over $8 million for paediatric cancers and blood disorders in the Caribbean

SickKids Foundation is pleased to announce it has surpassed its $8 million fund-raising goal for the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative, well in advance of the five-year goal, set during the programme launch on February 14, 2013. The achievement was celebrated at a reception at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada, held Tuesday evening with representatives from the Caribbean and donors who have generously supported the Initiative.{{more}}

The Initiative includes a five-year plan for addressing the region’s gaps in research, care and education in order to advance the diagnosis and management of paediatric cancer and blood disorders. Working in partnership with six Caribbean countries – Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and The Bahamas – the goals of the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative are threefold: to train health professionals in oncology, nursing, laboratory analysis and pharmacy; to provide consultation and diagnostic expertise; and to improve outcomes by developing and expanding access to diagnosis, treatment and supportive care.

Thanks to meaningful partnerships and the dedicated teams at the University of the West Indies and at health care facilities in each of the six partner countries, significant advancements have been realized that will change the future of health care for children diagnosed with cancer and serious blood disorders. Highlights of this significant impact to date include:

  • Training Jamaica’s first two paediatric oncologists, Dr Michelle Reece-Mills of the University Hospital of the West Indies and Dr Sharon McLean-Salmon of Bustamante Hospital for Children; prior to this, Jamaica had no certified paediatric oncologists
  • Opening five telemedicine rooms in each of Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and The Bahamas, and upgrading the existing one in Trinidad and Tobago, enabling medical professionals in the Caribbean to connect with SickKids oncologists and haematologists, and other medical institutions around the world, to collaborate on clinical consultations and facilitate training and education to support the early identification and treatment of children living in the Caribbean. To date, more than 50 case consultations have taken place via the telemedicine rooms. With the knowledge gained and shared during these sessions, the impact will certainly be much greater, potentially impacting hundreds of patients in the future. Moreover, these facilities can also be used for other medical purposes moving forward, extending the ultimate impact
  • Developing a nursing training programme to further educate and train nurses in specialized areas of treatment for cancer and blood disorders. To date, more than 50 health care professionals have participated in training opportunities, including during the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) held in Toronto and at the Caribbean Nursing Organization Symposium held in St Lucia
  • Establishing a local hospital-based oncology database and hiring a data manager in each partner country to capture demographic, treatment and outcome data which will help to improve the clinical management of paediatric patients and inform the design of future interventions. Prior to this, no data on childhood cancers or blood disorders in the Caribbean existed.

“For years the Caribbean has been challenged to deliver comprehensive care for children with cancer and blood disorders, with most patients seeking treatment at international centres,” said Dr Curt Bodkyn, paediatric oncologist at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital in Trinidad. “This meant only a few would have access to comprehensive care. The SickKids Initiative has created a paradigm shift with a focus of building capacity in our region, thus creating an opportunity for all children to have access to comprehensive care. For this, we are both grateful and proud.”

The SickKids-Caribbean Initiative is co-led by Dr Victor Blanchette, former chief of Haematology/Oncology and who was born in Barbados, and Dr Upton Allen, division head of Infectious Disease, who was born in Jamaica. Both are physicians at SickKids.

“At SickKids, we believe that where children reside should not be the primary factor that determines whether or not they survive childhood cancers. We are grateful to have the opportunity to apply our training and expertise to help build capacity in the Caribbean,” said Dr Upton Allen. “This Initiative is successful because it was set up as a true collaboration from the get-go. The partnerships we’ve established, like the one with the University of the West Indies, the guidance of the local ministries of health and hospital administrators, have all helped to ensure that we will have the greatest impact possible on improving the health of children in the Caribbean.”

More than 15 doctors and nurses from each of the Caribbean partner countries are here in Toronto for the third Annual General Meeting taking place at SickKids. Five days of training and knowledge sharing culminated with the reception this evening.

“One of the keys to the success and the reach of this initiative is that there is a true knowledge exchange between the SickKids team and our partners in the Caribbean, like the learning opportunities provided to the 15 medical professionals who are in Toronto this week,” said Dr Victor Blanchette, haematologist at SickKids and the McCaig Magee Family medical director for the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative. “We have just completed three days of discussing clinical practice guidelines to equip the lead physicians with the tools to adapt and implement appropriate treatment protocols to be applied locally in the Caribbean. These are learning opportunities that medical staff from the Caribbean would have otherwise not been exposed to.”

Funds were raised thanks to the generosity of individual donors and corporate partners in Canada and in the Caribbean who have come forward to improve the future of children’s health care. Funds were also raised through a series of community events in Toronto and in the Caribbean.

“The SickKids-Caribbean Initiative demonstrates innovation in collaboration among both medical partnerships and donor support across countries,” said Ted Garrard, President and CEO, SickKids Foundation. “Just over two short years ago we set a goal to raise $8 million in five years and we are thrilled to have not only surpassed the financial goal early, but also to have set in motion the fundamental components of this Initiative that are already having an impact on children’s health.”

The achievements of the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative that have already been realized are made possible thanks to the generosity of a lengthy list of donors, including those who each committed $1 million, as follows: CIBC FirstCaribbean (Nursing Training Partner); Wes and Christine Hall (lead donor, Jamaica); Leslois Shaw Foundation (lead donor, Barbados); McCaig Magee Family (McCaig Magee Family Medical Director); Republic Bank Limited (Sickle Cell Disease Partner); and Scotiabank (Telemedicine Partner).