Merck Oncology Fellowship Program

 
 
  • The Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program, a key initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program, focuses on building additional capacity through medical education and training.
The lack of financial means is not the only challenge in Africa and developing countries, but a scarcity of trained health care personnel capable to tackle the prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer at all levels of the health care systems is even a bigger challenge.

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program focuses on building professional cancer care capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and Developing countries. The program provides One-year fellowship program at Tata Memorial Centre - India, One and half-years Oncology Fellowship programs at University of Malaya - Malaysia, Two years Oncology Fellowship Program at University of Nairobi - Kenya and Two years Master degree in Medical Oncology at Cairo University - Egypt, in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.
 
Launched in 2016, over 69 candidates from more than 21 African countries has rolled in the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program. The program will continue to build cancer care capability in African countries such as Botswana, Cameroon, CAR, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia
 

Merck Foundation Alumni



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Dr. Nihad Salifu
Paediatric Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni

Ghana
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“Ghana has a population of about 26 million with a cancer rate of 109 per 100,000 people, and yet there is no single trained medical oncologist in the whole country. The duty of medical oncologist is handled by other specialties such as radiation oncologist, general surgeons, genitourinary surgeons, and haematologists among others. This makes the care of patients very difficult because these doctors are not formally trained in medical oncology.” Says Nihad Salifu.

In addition, there are only three paediatric oncologists in the whole country, and our cancer cure rate is very low in children- it is about 20% when cure rates are approaching 80% in many developed parts of the world.” Added Salifu.
Salifu is one of the first candidates of the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program says,” This huge human resource deficit in childhood cancer care is the main motivating factor for me applying to be considered for this training. I will benefit from this great opportunity being given to our country by Merck Foundation. The Merck Fellowship Program will add to the few paediatric oncologists in Ghana, to ease the workload, improve quality of patient care, add to the number of voices advocating for these patients and to the number of trainers of health workers delivering services including awareness creation. It will also strengthen the team effort in the area of research and improve the paediatric cancer registry.”


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Dr. Christina V. Malichewe
Adult Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Tanzania
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“Cancer is a growing concern in Tanzania, and limited facilities and few healthcare providers against the high rising number of patients diagnosed at advanced stages pose a great challenge to a developing country like Tanzania. Unfortunately, there are only two medical oncologists in a country of approximately 50 million people, one studied in Italy and another in China. We need more specialized oncologists in this field. Thank you, Merck Foundation for starting this program!! However, it is only through unique opportunities such as the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program we can make the needed change in our societies to improve patient access to cancer care.” Christina Malichewe said. 
 


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Dr. Abdulkadir M, Ethiopia
Paediatric Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Ethiopia
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“I am a faculty member of Addis Ababa University working at Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital department of paediatrics and child health hemato-oncology unit. I am general paediatrician serving kids suffering from cancer with no additional formal training in paediatric oncology. Merck Africa Fellowship Program will help me to update and upgrade my knowledge and skill in Paediatric Oncology; this helps me to give the appropriate and improved quality of care to cancer patients and helps us to expand the service.
 
Ethiopia is a country with approximately 100 million population. Currently, the country has three oncologists that serve the stated population. As I am faculty in the university, it will help the country to improve training program by strengthening and expanding Paediatric oncology fellowship program; this will increase the number of paediatric oncologists and improve access for kids with cancer to get timely improved and appropriate care.”

 

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Dr. Alemayehu Natnael
Adult Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Ethiopia
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Dr. Natnael said “Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program is a Golden path to tackle the growing challenge posed by Cancer in Africa. I was delighted to know about and to be part of the fellowship program on oncology that Merck Foundation is planning to give. By completing this fellowship program, I feel that I will not only further my career, but I will also be a critical asset to my country.”
 
“My people are also in great need of Oncologists to address their sufferings. To your surprise, there is no oncologist, even a single one in southern part of Ethiopia with an estimated population of 18 million. For that matter, there are only three oncologists in Ethiopia for about 100 million population.” He added
 
Dr. Natnael explained “Cancer care is not only about the expensive resources, but it is also about trained healthcare personnel capable of addressing prevention, early diagnosis, & treatment and able to provide palliative care to cancer patients. So human resource capacity building is a core in tackling the burden posed by cancer. With this regard, Merck Foundation already took the lion share in my country and the rest of Africa in general. “

 


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Dr. Kabisa Mwala
Surgical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Zambia
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Dr. Kabisa introduced himself,” I am a general surgeon deeply interested in Surgical Oncology because of my passion for helping patients ravaged by cancer especially, women with breast cancer. I have been participating in running a breast diagnostic clinic at our only Cancer Diseases Hospital (CDH) for the past three years now, with the last one year being run actively by myself. The offered surgical oncology fellowship position at Tata Memorial Hospital through the sponsorship of Merck Foundation will enhance my knowledge and skills in the field of surgical oncology to contribute better in managing patients seeking cancer care at our institution. Our Country has been training surgeons for some time now, but no specific surgical oncology training is available yet”.
 
“This opportunity of training will greatly help in improving the oncologic services currently being offered in Zambia, contribute to in-house training for other surgeons interested in the field of oncology and participate in local and collaborative research to improve quality of cancer care.  As such, Zambia will benefit from this much-needed skill and knowledge I will gain from this fellowship”.  He added. 


 

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Dr. Paul Kamfwa, Zambia
Gynaecologic Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni 

Zambia

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Dr. Paul Kamtwa told us” Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program is important for me because it will help me provide comprehensive and multidisciplinary care. The fellowship will help me to receive extensive surgical exposure to gynaecological procedures, chemotherapy and learn the new and advanced techniques of radiotherapy”.
 
“For the patients, normally those who have the first contact with a gynaecologic oncologist have the optimal care in staging, surgery, chemo-radiotherapy and follow up and as such better outcomes. Currently, this is not the case, and the fellowship will bridge that gap. Patients will have a continuity of care since surgery and administering of chemoradiotherapy can be facilitated by the same specialist.” he added.


 

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Dr. Damas Dukundane
Adult Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Rwanda
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Dr. Damas explained “When the opportunity of Medical oncology fellowship was announced at the Health Ministry of Rwanda, I immediately showed my interest in it.  As a clinician in Rwanda, I had a sigh of relief that an additional step towards better healthcare for Rwandans is on the horizon. Cancer care in Rwanda is still a scarcity, for slightly over eleven millions of Rwandans we have probably only one oncologist.  Cancer is still a death sentence for many Rwandans who cannot access the necessary cancer care that is often sought abroad.”
 
“I think that the lack of trained oncologists both doctors, nurses, pathologists, and paramedics is a key factor that results in inadequate cancer awareness and that leads to late-stage consultations and worse outcome for patients with cancer.
For the last ten years, significant efforts have been made by the Rwanda Government to increase trained specialists in internal medicine, surgery anaesthesiology, paediatrics, gynaecology obstetrics, and pathologists, growing numbers of imaging modalities are coming to Rwanda. Being trained in medical oncology will add up to the arsenal to diagnose and treat cancer in Rwanda.” He added
 
Dr. Damas further emphasized” I recall the discomfort when during my residency I had to break the bad news to a patient that he or she has Cancer, it was such bad news because of no unavailability of treatments locally or not affordable. The worse was to struggle to try to find words to answer what next?  Not all solutions will come in one day, but for my patients and myself, this is a hopeful step towards achieving adequate cancer care in Rwanda and the region. I have a lot of expectations from the program and what to achieve after the training. I hope to become a leader in cancer treatment, researcher, and advocate for accessible treatments especially for underprivileged communities at risk.”

Dr. Damas Further acknowledged Merck foundation efforts” I sincerely appreciate the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship as one of the many Merck Foundation initiatives to touch lives around Africa and in the world. I am honoured to be part of the mission of changing lives especially those affected by cancer. I am grateful to my country Rwanda that has granted me this opportunity; I promise to give back to the people.”

 


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Dr. Justin Mulindwa,
Paediatric Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Zambia
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“Currently, I am based at the Cancer Diseases Hospital which is the only centre providing Paediatric Oncology Care for children across a country of an estimated 15 million people with an estimated 45% being in the paediatric age group of up to 15 years old. Therefore, Merck Oncology Fellowship Program is very important for Zambia.  It provided me and other doctors with a unique training opportunity that will enhance paediatric oncology care, paediatric oncology research and teaching in the country.”

 
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Dr Musana Othinie
Gynacologic Oncology Fellow
 
Merck Foundation Alumni

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Uganda
 

Dr. Muusana introduced himself “I am Musana Othiniel, an obstetrician and gynaecologist from Uganda currently serving as the head of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya, a 113-year-old Faith-Based Private not for profit (PNFP) tertiary hospital.

Uganda as a country lacks a national cancer screening programme yet cervical cancer, and breast cancer remains the most common cancers and accounts for the highest proportion of cancers requiring radiotherapy. The country also has a shortage of competent gynae-oncology clinicians, researchers and educators in Uganda, hence limiting access for women with cancer to screening, diagnostic and treatment services. “

“The Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program will expand my knowledge on the selection of appropriate clinical and research methodology used in gynae-oncology. I hope to improve my skills in carrying out relevant and evidence-based clinical diagnosis and treatment, but also empower me with excellent clinical education skill to mentor other young health workers in gynaecologic- oncology.  I would like to apply my new skills attained through the fellowship program by continuing my work in a clinical position at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya where clinical care, research, and clinical education are carried out, and investigate issues mainly in oncology. Especially how simple, cost-effective screening and diagnostic interventions can be used to solve our problems locally. I also plan to use the skills learned in pursuing a Ph.D. programme in the future.” he added
 

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Dr Josephine Augustinus
Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


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Namibia

"Namibia population is 2,5 million, and more than 3000 new cancer cases get diagnosed on a yearly basis. I am confident that by the end of the one-year fellowship, I will be better equipped to manage cancer patients through preventions, early diagnosis, treatment and palliative care. I sincerely want to thank Merck Foundation for this great program that will transform the lives of cancer patients and their families. Please continue your great work."

 

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Dr Sekitene Semei Buswambaza
Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


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Uganda

Dr. Buwambaza introduced himself “My name is Semei Sekitene Buwambaza from Uganda, a doctor at Uganda Cancer Institute. It is a great please and honour to be Merck foundation Alumnus and be selected for Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship at Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) to learn and then go back home to serve Ugandan. Coming from a humble background, and having worked at Uganda Cancer Institute since 2010, initially as a volunteer, I have enjoyed helping our cancer patients many of whom come from less privileged communities.

“As I write this, it is a month now since my aunt who used to carry me on her back as we were running from place to place during the civil war in the early 80s, got the sad news that the pathology findings of the biopsy taken from her breast lump is indeed a carcinoma! So, am interested in Oncology because it is close to home.” Emphasized

“Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship program is significant to me because it is giving me an opportunity to learn and improve the way I have been managing cancer patients. It is also ushering me into the new trend of cancer care and research in the 21st century.

A bond with Merck as an alumnus is going to keep me updated with new developments in cancer care and exposure to a variety of learning seminars and workshops. All these and other benefits mean that my patients in Uganda will get better services and my dream of extending quality care to those in need of it will become a reality. Thank you, Merck, for enabling this opportunity!” he added


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Dr. Adane NIgussie
Palliative Care Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


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Ethiopia

Dr. Adane explained I was delighted to know about and to be part of the fellowship program on palliative care that Merck foundation is planning to give. After completing the fellowship program, I will be the person with palliative care training in my hospital, we have only four oncologists, and only two of them are giving palliative care to patients. I have a plan to start a palliative care training after completing my fellowship here. Palliative care is not only about resources, above anything it needs a trained health professional. About this Merck Foundation is taking the pivotal role in my country, Ethiopia”.
 
“Ethiopia is a country with approximately 100 million population. Currently, the country has three oncologists that serve the stated population. As I am faculty in the university, it will help the country to improve training program in by strengthening and expanding Paediatric oncology fellowship program; this will increase the number of pediatric oncologists and improve access for kids with cancer to get timely improved and appropriate care” he added.
 

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Sokhna Seye
Nursing Oncology Trainee
Merck Foundation Alumni


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Senegal
We are very happy with the partnership between Merck Foundation and our  ministry of health to build cancer care capacity in Senegal. 

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program came on time because cancer has become a public health problem. This training upgraded my knowledge, improves my practice and can train other healthcare providers to assist in the early diagnosis and treatment of patients. It  allow us to launch an awareness and information campaign in our various localities to detect cancer  early and reduce the mortality rate. 

Nous sommes très heureux du partenariat entre la Fondation Merck et notre Ministère de la Santé pour renforcer les capacités de prise en charge du cancer au Sénégal.

Le programme de formation "Merck Oncology Fellowship Program" est arrivé à temps car le cancer est devenu un problème de santé publique. Cette formation a amélioré mes connaissances, amélioré ma pratique et peut former d'autres prestataires de soins de santé pour aider au diagnostic précoce et au traitement des patients. Cela nous permet de lancer une campagne de sensibilisation et d’information dans nos différentes localités pour détecter rapidement le cancer et réduire le taux de mortalité.

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Dr Abdoulaye Keita
Pathology Oncology Trainee
Merck Foundation Alumni

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Senegal

“Cancer remains a major public health problem. Its care is multidisciplinary. It is very important to focus on prevention because "prevention is better than cure". The early diagnosis and immediate treatment are also very important because they avoid complications.

The Merck Foundation Oncology Training Program will allow us to improve the early diagnosis and proper management of Cancer and and to increase our experience as a pathologist In our countries we will try to empower  our patients to benefit from this learnt experience.
Many thanks to the Merck Foundation and Ministry of Health of Senegal for giving us this great opportunity.”

"Le cancer reste un problème majeur de santé publique. Ses soins sont multidisciplinaires. Il est très important de se focaliser sur la prévention car "mieux vaut prévenir que guérir". Le diagnostic précoce et le traitement immédiat sont également très importants car ils évitent les complications.
Le programme de formation 'Merck Oncology Fellowship Program' nous permettra d’améliorer le diagnostic précoce et la bonne prise en charge du cancer et d’accroître notre expérience en tant que pathologiste. Dans nos pays, nous allons essayer de permettre à nos patients de bénéficier de cette expérience acquise.
Un grand merci à la Fondation Merck et au Ministère de la Santé du Sénégal pour nous avoir offert cette formidable opportunité. ”

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Mr Abdelaziz ABDELMADJIT
Radiation Oncology Trainee
Merck Foundation Alumni

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Senegal

“Cancer in Senegal has become a public health problem as this disease kills many patients a day.

The cancer situation in Senegal is more than 1000 to 1200 new cases per year with a mortality rate of around 70%, which is extremely high.
It is in this light that the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program comes on time to allow us to improve cancer care in Senegal.
 
This is a great responsibility, because the lessons and good practices learned here should be shared, once back home , to better care for cancer patients.
We are very grateful to Ministry of Health or Senegal partnered with Merck Foundation to give us the opportunity to participate in this program .”

«Le cancer au Sénégal est devenu un problème de santé publique car cette maladie tue de nombreux patients par jour.
La situation du cancer au Sénégal est de plus de 1000 à 1200 nouveaux cas par an avec un taux de mortalité d'environ 70%, ce qui est extrêmement élevé. C'est dans cette optique que le programme de formation 'Merck Oncology Fellowship Program' arrive à temps pour nous permettre d'améliorer la prise en charge du cancer au Sénégal.
C'est une grande responsabilité, car les leçons et les bonnes pratiques apprises ici devraient être partagées, une fois de retour au pays, pour mieux soigner les patients atteints de cancer.
Nous sommes très reconnaissants au Ministère de la Santé du Sénégal, en partenariat avec la Fondation Merck, de nous donner la possibilité de participer à ce programme. »
 

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