Our UBS Optimus Foundation focuses on programs that benefit children worldwide. We do so because we understand that when children are educated, healthy and free from abuse, they are able to reach their full potential. So collaboration with World Child Cancer was a natural fit for us. Since 2010, they've worked in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, training healthcare workers in treating childhood cancer. In Ghana, after seven years of partnership with the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, survival rates at the hospital rose from 20% to 62%1 for certain cancers and national diagnosis more than tripled.
Those are the facts. But collaborations are about more than just numbers. They are driven by exceptional individuals. We think their stories have incredible power. And they should be told.
Today, Professor Lorna Renner is the Head of the Pediatric Oncology Unit at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. But when she first started working as a doctor in Ghana, she was an outlier amongst her medical peers – one of the few who wanted to stay. Between 1985 and 1994, 60% of medical graduates in Ghana took jobs overseas, attracted by better pay and working conditions.2
Starting out a resident at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, she saw first-hand how the lack of expertise in treating childhood cancer and inaccessibility of funding was cause for national concern. (Children diagnosed with cancer in high-income countries have long-term cure rates over 80% whereas survival rates drop as low as 10% in lower- and middle-income countries).3 Lorna set off for the UK to specialize in pediatric oncology and to develop a network that would serve to further work in Ghana. Not returning to her country was never an option.
"In the UK, I was a spoke in a well-oiled wheel," she said. "I knew that in Ghana I would have to be the wheel." 2
Lorna returned to Ghana ready to make waves. She initiated the partnership between World Child Cancer and the Korle Bu Hospital, enabling them to provide specialist training for healthcare workers, support costs for vulnerable families, facilitate better patient follow-up and even begin community awareness and engagement activities.
Currently Lorna is one of three pediatric oncologists in a country of 27 million people. Since the partnership with World Child Cancer in 2010, the number of children in Ghana receiving cancer treatment each year has doubled. In 2019, the UBS Optimus Foundation began supporting World Child Cancer to scale up their efforts to provide specialist training, not just in Ghana but throughout West Africa by building Korle Bu Hospital's capacity to be a regional Center of Excellence for pediatric cancer diagnosis and treatment.