April 12, 2018, Kampala, Uganda – Cancer patients in Uganda face an uphill battle. Often, by the time they are diagnosed, they are already terminally ill. In addition, Uganda is tragically underserved in the area of health care: only one cancer center in the country and nine nurses per 10,000 people.
Kathleen Shannon Dorcy, an Adrian Dominican Associate and a 35-year oncology nurse, is part of a collaborative effort that hopes to change this situation in Uganda by offering training and support to the country’s nurses.
As one of two nurses travelling to Uganda Kathleen helped lay the foundation for a collaborative effort between the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). Kathleen is the Director of Clinical/Nursing Research, Education and Practice for SCCA and staff scientist of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The trip was the most recent step in the collaborative efforts of health care organizations between Seattle and Uganda. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) opened a research, training, and patient care facility in 2015 in Kampala, Uganda, and have engaged with Ugandan medical practice and education at UCI and Makarere University.
Because Uganda has only one cancer care center, patients may travel hundreds of miles to get there – often arriving with advance stage disease requiring chemotherapy, possibly radiation and palliative care, Kathleen said.
During the recent, week-long trip Kathleen and Arlyce Coumar, RN, dedicated time to understanding oncology care in Uganda. “While at the UCI we got to know the nurses and the clinical setting and we met patients and families as well as explored the scope of clinical care offered.” Kathleen explained. While there, Kathleen and Arlyce taught three classes to more than 100 people, celebrated World Cancer Day at the Parliament Plaza in Kampala, and worked with the UCI nurse and medical leadership to identify next steps in the collaborative efforts to improve cancer outcomes.
Kathleen envisions a sustained relationship between SCCA and UCI nurses. She and another nurse-led delegation will be returning to Uganda twice in the next 12 months. In these visits the delegations will work with the National Oncology Nurse Society to set up a curriculum for the UCI nurses. “We want to augment clinical orientation and Oncology competency to create a dedicated Uganda Cancer Nurse Fellowship Program.
The project is based on the World Health Organization imperative urging highly-resourced countries to help under resourced countries to improve health outcomes, Kathleen noted. “Closely observing the UCI staff daily work in such a complex clinical setting, overcoming obstacles like limited water resources, no air-conditioning in temperatures of 90 to 100 degrees, scarce medical supplies, and very ill patients was totally awe inspiring,” she said.
Kathleen attributes prompting of the Holy Spirit – or St. Catherine – with the formal resolve to find ways to address the needs of the UCI nurses and patients. “Somebody had to make it happen,” she said. “We had to take the first step and figure it out. It is an ongoing commitment of reflection, identification of the needs and finding ways to meet immediate needs and development of a strategic long path toward better screening and earlier diagnoses. For us it has been an incredibly exciting yet challenging and humbling journey.”
To read more about the ongoing collaborative work to treat cancer in Uganda, click here.
May 5, 2017, Washington, D.C. – A number of Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and friends braved the heat and crowds of Washington, D.C., to express their commitment and concern for Earth and her inhabitants. The group – along with students from Siena Heights University in Adrian – were participating in the People’s Climate March on April 29.
The crowd was estimated in the tens of thousands, and some say up to 200,000 people took part in the march, which was organized into eight blocs of activists. The march coincided with the 100th Day in office of President Donald Trump – and of the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, great Dominican mystic and reformer.
Sister Janet Stankowski, OP, and Patty Gillis, an Adrian Dominican Associate, were among the staff members and supporters of Voices for Earth Justice (VEJ), an interfaith network of people who care for Earth. Their group marched as part of the Defenders of Faith bloc.
“I wore my Dominican scarf in honor of the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena,” Patty said. “I felt her energy in all the caring people taking their concerns to the seat of power, much like Catherine did in the Middle Ages.”
Patty said she was uplifted to be among the indigenous peoples who took part in the march, and among people of so many faith traditions. “They reminded us all that Care for Creation is a moral and spiritual issue.” She was also pleased to see the influence of Pope Francis on many participants through his picture and quotes from his encyclical, Laudate Si, on banners carried through the streets of Washington, D.C.
“The People’s Climate March was very impressive, with many, many activists,” Sister Janet said. “We stood in respect as the indigenous communities and Protectors of Justice prepared to lead the March. They were followed by the immigrants, water keepers, and Creators of Sanctuary.” In all, Sister Janet said, her participation in the Climate March was “a meditative, powerful, and hopeful experience.”
Members of the group from Adrian – marching with the Defenders of Truth group – also found the Climate March to be a hopeful experience, in spite of the urgency of the climate change issue and challenges such as the 90-degree heat, crowds, and the difficulty of traveling to the march site.
“It’s so hopeful, because you are out there with all these people and you think, ‘Wow, these are all people who care about the same things I do, and there are so many of us,’ ” explained Sister Kathleen Nolan, OP. She is the Director of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. “How can [the March] not make an impact?”
Sister Kathy – along with Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Holly Sammons, Dominican Volunteer – were impressed by the kindness of the people they encountered, whether at their hotel or among other participants, in spite of the discomfort and inconveniences.
“Everyone is so peaceful and kind,” Holly said. She noted that the atmosphere of peace among the participants made parents feel secure enough to bring their young children to the march. “It’s kind of cool to see people being introduced to this [activism] at so young an age, and parents feeling it’s safe enough to bring their kids, too.”
They were also impressed by the commitment of so many people, not only at the People’s Climate March, but the weekend before, at the science march and at a May Day demonstration in Chicago. “Week after week, the crowds continue to come out,” Sister Kathy said. “The energy hasn’t lagged.”
Sister Maurine saw the interconnectedness of issues represented by many of the marchers, from Black Life Matters activists to indigenous peoples who carried signs such as “Don’t Break Treaties.” But the various agendas “all fit under the same category – respect for our world and respect for the inhabitants of our world,” Sister Maurine said.
In general, the participants from Adrian came away from the People’s Climate March with a renewed commitment to caring for Earth – and a greater sense of a culture of respect. Sister Maurine said the message she would like to bring to others after her experience of the march is that “people desire to respect the Earth and everything in the Earth and on the Earth.”
Feature photo (above): Staff and supporters of Voices for Earth Justice (VEJ) took part in the Climate March: back row, from left, Karen Clarke; Patty Gillis, Associate and Director of VEJ; Sister Janet Stankowski, OP; Marian Gillis; and Laura Gillis. Seated in front is Nate Butler, Laura’s husband.
Sisters Kathleen Nolan, OP, third from left, and Maurine Barzantni, OP, front row, right, with a group of Co-workers, friends, and Siena Heights University students, take part in the People’s Climate March on April 29.