Now we welcome the new year

Once again we all find ourselves approaching to new year in
few days. I am grateful for every opportunity to learn about the world through
the cancer survivors even towards the end of the year.
On November 14th and 15th, I followed Mei Ching to attend
Asia Cancer Care and Support Group Summit in Vietnam, joining with our Thai
teammate Piyapong, and the patient leader Cong from Max’s Vie. Our goal was to learn how to setup and improve patient support group in the setting of Asia Pacific region. 
Mei Ching was invited as a
speaker representing Max to share about the remarkable work of the patient
groups in Max Global Network for Maximize Life Campaign, in front of more than
150 patient advocates in the region.
The summit very much focused on patient advocacy work among
breast cancer groups, rather than medical information, giving opportunities for
the newly-met patient groups to learn from each other’s’ work. Most of the
groups are from developing countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia, which you
might think they are relatively conservative and new in experience. However,
the creativity and dedication showing through their work has totally deflated
the stereotypes. It was inspiring to see how the patient groups use the power
of patient relationship and media to optimize their support within limited
resources and restricted environment.
Overcoming stigma and distance: train potential peer leaders among the
breast cancer survivors, who will educate the ladies in their villages, and
identify the patients to seek treatment.
Branding and packaging: getting monitored and diagnosed is
no longer shameful; it is a cool lifestyle.
Strategic planning: implement campaign outcome over the
After the summit, Mei Ching and I took a chance to pay a
field visit to the partnering hospitals in the program of GIPAP and NOA
Tasigna, with the support of Novartis Vietnam. This was the second time Max visiting Vietnam since 5 years ago, but it was the first time I met patients in person.
Tuyet (NOA Coordinator, third from left), Hong Ha (BU Head, fourth from right), Vinh (Head of Medical Affairs, second from right)
Meet the physicians: the aim of this trip was to understand more about the ground work in hospitals to better support the physicians, as the programs have been implemented throughout the years.
Long way to go: some hospitals have implemented the infrastructure but there still many poor patients in need.
Long wait: with limited hospitals and physicians available only in 3 cities, this is the common scenario in Vietnam which population is reaching more than 92 million.
More to help: this is the staple food donated for patients that we found in hospital. In Vietnam, patients are required to visit hospital and collect medication every month. This is a huge challenge to the remote patients who are lack of financial aid to support transport, accommodation and food.
Strict regulations: Vietnam is a special country in which Glivec is also available for the patients enrolled in national health insurance under the program of VPAP. To differentiate the drug dispensing between VPAP (government reimbursement) and GIPAP (Novartis donation), the patients will be given different shapes of drug, both in 100 mg per pill. Patients are required to return the blister every time they collect drug. Patients will need to submit police report or consent letter confirmed by local government if they lose the blister.
Dedicated physicians: Despite of the financial and regulatory restriction, all physicians are working very hard in long hour to support their patients, including managing documents and PATS for every case, explaining program structure and treatment plan to patients, and even using their personal phone to follow-up with the patients who are unable to come for clinic appointment.
Who is Dr. Pham Xuan Dung?
If you have managed GIPAP Vietnam before, you must have a good impression of this physician who works in efficient, responsive and supportive manner. Some said the physician is a lady; some said a gentleman… The answer is: Dr. Dung is a TEAM of doctors using the same email account! In fact, Dr. Dung is the deputy director of hospital and he is not involved in the team to treat patients 🙂
Dr Khanh (first from left) is the deputy director of NIHBT, who attended ASH CML forum this year. He is also a kind and humble physician working with us in the programs. He and his team were so happy and thankful to receive GeneXpert machine through the support of Max. The machine has incredibly improved the diagnostic test of patients.
We found a GIPAP patient while visiting clinic. She and her husband were very happy to meet us and expressed gratitude towards our support.
It was a fruitful trip that captured the important issues and concern requiring our further attention and improvement. Most importantly, I could see my roles and responsibility in every patient case I manage. They are no longer just the papers and figures in my soundless folders. I wish I can enhance my knowledge and ability to help patients in practical ways in the coming year. 
I would like to dedicate this blog to every PO who are used to manage Vietnam program: Ann, Erin, Danielle, Shirleen… Although I took over for nearly 12 months, but I still feel amazed every time I open a case seeing different names in the case notes. It is such an amazing feeling to know everyone’s effort brought us to what we achieve today although most of us have never met the patients and physicians.
Together we will be stronger and better.
Together let’s welcome the new year with a big hug with full of love!  
– Yee Jia

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