UMass Boston Professor to Focus on Testing, Education in Country Hardest Hit by Cervical Cancer Deaths
Professor of Nursing Haeok Lee is going to Malawi to help implement cervical cancer screening and treatment programs for women in rural Malawi.
Lee will travel to the east African nation thanks to support from the Fulbright Specialist Program, which sends U.S. faculty and professionals to academic institutions for 2-6 weeks to serve as expert consultants on curriculum, faculty development, and institutional planning. Lee will be working in conjunction with Daeyang Nursing College, which is located outside of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. She’ll be doing a needs assessment over the January 2018 break and implementing a screening and education plan next summer.
The intervention is badly needed in Malawi, which has the world’s highest cervical cancer mortality rate, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.
“Pap smears are not affordable in Malawi. Their monthly income is only $30. Pap smears cost more than $30, and there’s no pathologist,” said Lee, who is entering her tenth year at UMass Boston.
Lee’s plan is to educate women and train nurses how to use the Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid test and cryotherapy treatment, which WHO recommends for developing countries.
“You can see if someone is pre-cancerous by the changes of the color. The test costs less than $1, and nurses and other health care professionals can do it,” Lee said. “I consider this cross-training. I do not understand their health care system and I do not understand their culture. I am going there not only to provide my expertise and services, but I’m going there to learn from them so I can develop new innovative ideas.”
Lee is familiar with Malawi. She traveled there in 2012 to train Daeyang faculty on community-based participatory nursing research. She recruited Jasintha Mtengezo, the dean of Daeyang, to become a student in UMass Boston’s PhD nursing program. Mtengezo is pictured at left with Lee and Daeyang faculty member Veronica Maluwa.
Some of the funding for next year’s work is coming from Lee’s collaboration with Ewha Womans University in Korea. Lee is hoping to get additional funding to continue screening, treatment, and education after she returns to UMass Boston. She’d also like to develop a MSN program at Daeyang in collaboration with Ewha Womans University.
Lee’s passion and personal commitment to preventing cancer prevention and addressing health disparities in minorities and women is evident.
“Just imagine that girls and women, regardless of where they were born, can enjoy a healthy and longer life,” Lee said. “Because when I go there, most of the women are younger than myself. Not many people there are older than 60 years old. It’s not just about nursing, it’s not just about health, it’s about human rights.”
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