Merck Foundation and African First Ladies award scholarships to 140 oncology doctors

Merck Foundation and African First Ladies award scholarships to 140 oncology doctors
CEO of Merck Foundation Dr Rasha Kelej

As part of the World Day celebration, Merck Foundation, in collaboration with African First Ladies, has granted scholarships to 140 oncology doctors across 28 African countries. This initiative aims to bolster cancer care capacity, address the shortage of oncologists, and foster the development of multidisciplinary cancer care teams throughout the continent.

The scholarships cover countries including the Gambia, , Burundi, , Guinea Conakry, Central Africa Republic, , , Nigeria, Namibia, , Zimbabwe, Ghana, and , among others. World Cancer Day, observed annually on February 4th, is spearheaded by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to raise global awareness, share knowledge, and mobilize action at personal, collective, and governmental levels.

Under the theme “Close the Care Gap,” the 2024 World Cancer Day campaign calls for unified action to ensure equitable access to life-saving cancer treatment and care for all. Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, emphasized the organization's commitment to transforming cancer care in Africa through professional capacity enhancement and equitable access to high-quality cancer care.

Merck Foundation's Cancer Access Programme, launched in 2016, has provided over 1700 scholarships to doctors from 50 countries in 42 medical specialties, including oncology. The programme offers one, two, and three-year fellowships, postgraduate diplomas, and master's degrees in oncology, as well as clinical training in , , and Kenya.

Moreover, Merck Foundation offers scholarships for online programmes in cancer and clinical oncology from renowned UK universities such as the University of South Wales, University of Buckingham, Queen Mary University of , Cardiff University, and The University of Edinburgh.

Dr. Mahamat Saleh Mahamat Baldass, an oncology alumni from Chad, expressed gratitude for the training received through Merck Foundation, which has enabled him to provide critical care to cancer patients in his country. Dr Sylvestre Bazikamwe, another Merck Foundation alumni from Burundi, highlighted how the programme has equipped him to establish a Gynae-Oncology operating room and train his team to offer essential surgical treatments promptly.

The statement concluded by affirming Merck Foundation's dedication to pioneering advancements in cancer care across Africa, emphasizing the organization's role in training the first oncologists and cancer care teams in several African nations, thereby significantly impacting cancer care delivery in previously underserved regions.

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