The International Cancer Corps (ICC) sent its ninth and largest team to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in August 2011. This year, for the first time, the returning team to Honduras included oncology nurses. The team was comprised of two advanced practice nurses, Lisa Kennedy Sheldon, PhD APRN-BC AOCNP®, assistant professor in the University of Massachusetts Boston's College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Julie Carlson, MS APRN AOCNS®, and two gynecologic oncologists, Dr. Clifford Wheeless and Dr. Emily Berry. Local hosts were Dr. Jose Angel Sanchez, and senior surgical oncology resident Dr. Hoover Henriquez Cooper.
Lisa Kennedy Sheldon teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in nursing with a focus on oncology nursing and cancer care. She is an oncology nurse practitioner at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, New Hampshire, and an associate member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Julie Carlson is an oncology clinical nurse specialist at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Illinois.
Working with local doctors, medical students, residents, and the Honduran Undersecretary for Health, the nurses provided a two-day conference for Honduran nurses working in cancer care -- the first conference of oncology nursing ever organized in Honduras. The attendance was double the expected number, a strong indication of the interest and need for more education and collaboration. Sheldon and Carlson delivered 10 bilingual lectures during the conference using medical students as translators. Additionally, they collected information about the conference participants, including demographic information, education, years in oncology, work settings, and educational needs for future program development.
The conference concluded with a roundtable of healthcare providers to discuss cancer needs in Honduras. Suggestions included a cancer foundation to provide supplemental funding to improve cancer care initiatives, a professional organization for Honduran oncology nurses, graduate programs in oncology nursing, collaboration with other international organizations such as the Oncology Nursing Society and the International Society for Cancer Care Nurses, and future conferences organized with HVO and ASCO volunteers and local experts in cancer care.
The ICC program was started by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in partnership with Health Volunteers Overseas, an international medical education organization. Since 2010, the ICC has worked with healthcare providers, academic institutions, and healthcare institutions to develop cancer programs in low resource countries. Teams of healthcare providers from the United States have traveled to low and middle-income countries such as Honduras and Ethiopia, volunteering one to four weeks to work with oncology care providers to improve cancer care.