Aziza Shad: Caring for Children with Cancer around the World
Pediatric cancer patients at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center have the full range of services available to them— from top-notch oncologists and surgeons to experts in palliative care, social work, nursing, and even art therapy. But many children around the world do not have access to even the most basic services of a trained oncologist.
Aziza Shad, MD, Lombardi’s chief of pediatric hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplantation, is doing her best to change that. She is well-known in the Washington, DC, area as one of the top pediatric oncologists. In 2006, she was honored with the first Amey Distinguished Professor of Neuro-Oncology and Childhood Cancer after her life-saving care of Kara Amey, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 10 and treated by Shad at Lombardi.
Nationally, Shad is recognized as a leader in research and advocacy for ongoing care for childhood cancer survivors. Her 2008 handbook for cancer survivors, called The Next Step: Crossing the Bridge to Survivorship, has been requested by universities and pediatric cancer organizations in numerous countries and has been incorporated into at least one training curriculum.
Reaching Across the World
Internationally, Shad leads efforts to improve care for cancer patients by building, training, and partnering with local medical associations to develop national palliative care programs. She has dedicated significant time to improving survival rates in children with cancer who live in developing countries. As director of the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR) USA, she works with physicians from around the world and travels to oncology centers in developing countries to educate oncologists and nurses, organize workshops, and teach palliative care. Shad was instrumental in helping to establish cancer survivorship and palliative care programs in several Middle Eastern and Asian countries.
At Lombardi, Shad and her Georgetown colleague Amal Abu-Ghosh, MD, have developed an NCI-funded collaboration with the King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan. The pediatric oncology program at Lombardi hosts Jordanian fellows, providing specialized training in pediatric hematology/oncology. Spending between four and six months in Washington, DC, the fellows are introduced to technical areas of expertise, such as radiation oncology, molecular diagnostics, transfusion medicine, and hemophilia treatment, in addition to training in communication skills and clinical care best practices.
Shad hopes to expand this program through an international collaborative group called the Global Alliance for the Cure of Children with Cancer (GACCC). Members of the Alliance include some of the most prestigious cancer advocacy and research organizations in the world including the INCTR, NCI, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Children’s Oncology Group, and Texas Children’s Cancer Center. Shad has spearheaded developing the first international curriculum for training pediatric hematology/oncology specialists in the developing world.
Promoting Peace through Cancer Care
In 2007, Shad and several colleagues from Georgetown traveled to Cyprus for a meeting of the Middle East Cancer Consortium (MECC). Shad was accompanied by pediatric art therapist Tracy Councill, who led the conference participants in three different art therapy exercises, and explained how these tools could be used in the participants’ own medical practice.
“It was amazing to see people from several different countries – some of whom are adversaries – working together,” says Councill. “People seemed very excited to learn something they could do with their own patients.”
In a region of the world not known for peace between neighbors, health care providers from Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey bonded over common challenges. Shad, who heads the palliative care steering committee for MECC, said the group’s aim is to establish palliative care centers in each of these countries.
Already, Shad has a track record of success. In January 2007, she was instrumental in founding the first palliative care society in Pakistan, her home country. Forming a partnership between the National Cancer Institute, the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America, and the INCTR, Shad held the first-ever conference on palliative care in Pakistan. The result was a unanimous vote to establish the Pakistani Palliative Care Society with goals to educate health professionals about palliative care and create systems to improve delivery of palliative care within the Pakistani health system.
By Allison Whitney, excerpted from Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 2007 Annual Report.