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.
November 18, 2016, Henderson, Nevada – Sister Phyllis Sikora, OP, was recently appointed by Dignity Health as one of eight professionals to take on a new position within the health care system.
Dignity Health has appointed eight regional vice presidents for mission integration. Since November 6, Sister Phyllis has been serving as the health system’s Nevada Service Area Vice President of Mission Integration. This new responsibility is in addition to her position as Vice President of Mission Integration for the Rose de Lima Campus of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals.
The purpose of the new system of regional vice presidents for mission integration is “to build a unified mission integration team across the service areas,” Sister Phyllis explained. “It’s also to assure that each of our people in the mission position has the needed professional development,” and to ensure that each mission leader throughout Dignity Health reports to someone else in the mission field – rather than to human resources or other professionals.
The new position also helps to “standardize care” across the entire health care system. “Mission doesn’t look one way in one hospital and operated in a different way in a different, but would operate at the same level in all of the service areas,” Sister Phyllis explained.
Sister Kathleen McGrail, OP, is Vice President of Mission Integration for the Siena Campus. St. Rose Dominican Hospitals also includes the San Martin Campus, whose Vice President of Mission Integration has taken a new position in San Francisco, headquarters of Dignity Health.
Sister Phyllis said she has been blessed in the Nevada Service Region because those involved specifically in mission have been integrated into the leadership team. “We already go to operations meetings and executive leadership teams,” she said, but that has not always been the case for mission leaders in other service areas. The new system will integrate mission into leadership across the eight regions of Dignity Health.
Dignity Health is a system of 60,000 caregivers and staff members across 21 states. Its mission states that the health care system is “committed to delivering compassionate, high-quality, affordable, health services for all; to serving and advocating for our brothers and sisters who are poor and disenfranchised; and partnering with others in the community to improve the quality of life.” The system’s core values are dignity, collaboration, justice, stewardship, and excellence.
St. Rose Dominican Hospitals was founded nearly 70 years ago by the Adrian Dominican Sisters, who still sponsor St. Rose, as well as Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California – also part of Dignity Health.
Sister Phyllis has already met with the seven other service area vice presidents and is particularly excited that, as a group, they will be able to share best practices. For example, she said, she learned of one service area that developed an ethics notebook for its staff – a practice that she was able to follow.
“It’s a team,” she said. “You’re not in this position in isolation, but you’re part of an eight-member team.” One of the challenges of this new team, Sister Phyllis believes, is to develop the new team. “We’re still in the exploration stage of who we are as a group, what we want to accomplish, what it would look like, and what benefits we would bring to our organization.”
In her ministry of mission integration, Sister Phyllis has helped to conduct orientations, introducing mission and values to the new employees. “We’re at employee forums. Our presence is very visible,” she said. As St. Rose Dominican nears its 70th anniversary, Sister Phyllis also strives to make employees aware of the Adrian Dominican Sisters who founded the hospital.
“The original women brought the gift of being committed to the health of the communities they served in,” Sister Phyllis said. “That’s the mission – how do we serve the people in the communities that our hospitals are in? How do we bring in the healing presence of our original Sisters?”