Dr. Trish Scanlan
As some of you know, in addition to starting the Epidemia activewear line focused on supporting women in STEM education, I am a second year medical student at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.
This summer, my studies took me to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where I spent two months working in the pediatric cancer ward at Muhimbili National Hospital. During that time, I learned three important lessons:
1. Kids are the most resilient people on the planet
2. Hope thrives even under the most difficult circumstances
3. I have absolutely none of the skills required to be a doctor
I am confident #3 will change with time and schooling, but the first two have me thinking about the inspirational women I met there who save lives every day.
When Dr. Patricia Scanlan starting working in Tanzania about a decade ago, she never intended to stay. She planned to do some research on the treatment of childhood cancer in poor communities and then to return home to Ireland. But she couldn’t turn away from the overwhelming needs of those children, and she decided to stay in Tanzania.
Since then, Dr. Scanlan and her team have fought constant battles to benefit their patients and have shared an uncompromising commitment to the children in their care. Thanks to their hard work, they’ve increased the survival rate of children with cancer in Tanzania from around 10 percent a decade ago to more than 60 percent today.
Dr. Scanlan is just one of the many amazing women I had the honor of working with this summer:
• Dr. Laiti, who grew up in Tanzania and moved to Russia to study medicine – though she spoke no Russian and had to learn the language. (Dare you to try that!)
• Alice, the head nurse of the cancer ward, who works day and night to ensure that the kids are comfortable.
• Beatrice, who manages the administrative duties of the ward and has a daughter who was treated for cancer at Muhimbili as a baby. Her daughter is now a healthy six-year-old, and Beatrice chose to return to the hospital to give other children that same chance at life.
But the strongest and most dedicated women I encountered this summer were the mothers of our patients. Many of these women have been thrust into a foreign world of doctors and hospitals and quickly become their child’s primary nurse, taking temperatures and reporting to the medical staff on call. It was amazing to see these incredible women work and to witness firsthand the results of their passion.
Because of these strong women, I was able to witness children finish their chemotherapy, leave the hospital cancer-free, and regain the childhood that only years ago would have likely been lost to them forever.
To learn more about Dr. Scanlan’s work at Their Lives Matter, visit http://www.wearetlm.org