Our 2009 sponsorship for Dr. Elizabeth Dimba‘s fellowship at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto is part of our wider program of co-investing in health initiatives in Africa. Dr. Dimba is a leading pathologist within the maxillofacial team at the University of Nairobi. During her three-month fellowship, she worked with Dr. Brenda Gallie, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Medical Biophysics, Medical and Molecular Genetics and Ophthalmology and director of the Hospital for Sick Children’s retinoblastoma program. She was involved in an academic program covering the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and follow-up aspects of modern retinoblastoma management at the Hospital for Sick Children and other selected hospitals within the University of Toronto Health Network.

The fellowship’s benefits to Kenya

Since her return, Dr. Dimba has coordinated a centralized diagnostic service based at the University of Nairobi pathology Labs. Dr Dimba comments:

Provision of medical care in Kenya can be frustrating when we lack the resources and infrastructure to help our patients. If we are going to have any impact at all on child mortality, then a strategic partnership with organizations like Toronto SickKids Hospital is obviously the way to continue.

Developing sustainable healthcare strategies

SickKids is committed to help children lead healthy, full and productive lives, by creating innovative healthcare solutions. To achieve this, SickKids works with partners to address the global shortage of trained paediatric medical personnel.  The fellowship programme is part of this strategy and since 2008 it has welcomed fellows from India, Guyana, Rwanda, Sudan and Kenya. Leaders in health care in their own countries, these doctors gain more in-depth understanding about disease, the skills to work with modern technologies and new expertise in diagnostics, research techniques and patient management. They then take these proficiencies back and use them to develop sustainable healthcare strategies in their home communities.

About the Daisy Eye Cancer Fund and retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is a cancer that grows in the eyes of babies and children under the age of six. The cancer grows on the retina, a thin layer of cells at the back of the eye that changes light into signals for the brain to process into pictures. It can affect one or both eyes.  Daisy’s Eye Cancer Fund was founded in 2004, inspired by the experiences of two little girls who struggled to access the life and vision-saving care they needed. The charity is named after a brave little girl from the English county of Devon.  Daisy battled retinoblastoma for five years, and required specialised treatment at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada, that was unavailable to her in the U.K.  Daisy’s parents established The Daisy Fund to raise funds for her treatment, and the family’s16-monthstayinCanada.  In September 2004, a little African girl named Gorata (Rati) was diagnosed with a recurrence of retinoblastoma following removal of her eye 19 months before.  Such a recurrence is rare in developed countries, but very common in developing countries due to late diagnosis and poor follow-up.  An email sent out by the family was picked up by a retinoblastoma survivor in Oxford, Abby White, who began advocating for Rati and her family.  Four weeks later, Rati began receiving intensive medical care in Canada.  Daisy’s parents met the costs of transport for Rati and her mother, and contributed to the initial medical payments.  At this point, Daisy’s Eye Cancer Fund was established, both in England and Canada, to raise funds for Rati’s medical care.  Although Rati initially responded very well to treatment in Canada, a further recurrence in January 2006 could not be overcome.  Sadly, she passed away on 21st August 2006, surrounded by her parents and three sisters.  Rati’s experience highlights the desperate inadequacy of cancer care in many countries around the world.  During her four short years of life, she set a challenge to help children like her, who are dying from this entirely curable cancer.