On April 7, 2017, in celebration of its 15th anniversary, the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL) affiliated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital (SJCRH) in Memphis, Tennessee, USA; at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) organized its first Childhood Cancer Awareness Conference, under the High Patronage of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Lebanon General Michel AOUN who was represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health H.E. Mr. Ghassan Hasbani.
The conference, which took place at the Issam Fares Hall, AUBMC, attracted more than 300 attendees from Lebanon and the region of different ages and walks of life: doctors, nurses, and specialists in the treatment of childhood cancer; students, journalists, professionals, sociologists, and more.
At the front lines, next to H.E. Mr. Ghassan Hasbani and CCCL Chair of the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee Mrs. Nora Joumblatt, were H.E. Jean Ogasapian Minister of State for Women's Affairs representing the Lebanese Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Saad Hariri; Mr. Zahi Haybe representing H.E. Mr. Pierre Bou Assi Minister of Social Affairs, H.E. Mrs. Mona Ofeich representing Former Lebanese President General Michel Suleiman, and Mrs. Hilda Khoury, representing H.E. Mr. Marwan Hamade, Minister of Education and Higher Education.
In addition to former Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Mohamad Khalife, H.E. Elizabeth Richard, Ambassador to the United States of America, H.E. Nayla Moawad Founder and Honorary Chairwoman of the Rene Moawad Foundation, Mr. Richard C. Shadyac Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), HRH Princess Ghida Talal Chairperson of King Hussein Cancer Foundation and Center, Dr. Mohammad H. Sayegh, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Dr. Hassan El Solh, Medical Center Director and Chief Medical Officer of the AUBMC, Director of Children’s Cancer Institute and Director of The Naef K. Basile Cancer Institute at AUBMC; POEM Chair Dr. Amani AlKofide and Poem board members as well as members of the CCCL Board of Trustees, Mr. Paul Edde, Mr. Farouk Jabre, Mrs. Salwa Salman, Mr. Imad Taher, Dr. Cesar Bassim, Mr. Nicolas Boukhater, Dr. Ali Ghandour, and Mrs. Yolla Noujaim.
The conference started with an opening note from CCCL’s Chair Mrs. Nora Joumblatt where she welcomed all the guests and thanked President Aoun, represented by H.E. Hasbani, for his patronage to the conference. Joumblatt mentioned that the center assigns great importance to this conference, not only because it coincides with the celebration of its 15th anniversary but because it is a continuation of the center’s mission and role of educating the audience and spreading more awareness about this disease.
In his address, H.E. Ghassan Hasbani conveyed the greetings of President Aoun and his wishes for success, noting that President Aoun's Patronage of this conference bears many indications. First of all, the general interest in conferences that aim to protect our children and to nurture their health and development; and the second indication is the appreciation of the role the center in providing the best treatments for these children, and the important cure rates reached at the center.
Moreover, Hasbani revealed that the ministry is currently working on "rebuilding the National Registry of Cancer Diseases" and also called on doctors to respect the medical protocols approved by the Ministry of Health, and to allow patients to receive pharmaceutical aid from the ministry.
Dr. Mohammad H. Sayegh, said that the conference raises the level of culture of the society and those responsible for treating childhood cancer. He also mentioned that in the lives of children with cancer, survivors and their families, hope is always a reliable foundation for fighting and eradicating the disease, and the emotional and physical impact of the disease on childhood requires our combined efforts and potential in various medical sectors and their participation with community members to give these children a better chance of life.
In his speech Mr. Richard C. Shadyac Jr. mentioned that he is delighted to be participating in this conference at a “historic moment in the history of our partnership, which is now celebrating its 15th anniversary”. Shadyack mentioned that he is confident that Mr. Danny Thomas, the founder of ALSAC and St. Jude, had thoughts like this in mind when he established the guiding principles of St. Jude – that every child no matter their economic status, their ethnicity, their faith or their race, deserves the same chance at life and that The CCCL is a shining example of the international partnerships St. Jude has fostered over the past 20 years.
Dr. Hassan El Solh noted in his speech that cancer, in the past, was called an insoluble disease and now the results of treatment are at a total recovery of more than 80 percent for the patients.
The opening ceremony concluded with a speech from HRH Princess Ghida Talal where she mentioned that “cancer is treacherous and knows no boundaries” it affects adults and children, the rich and the poor and men and women without discrimination. As such, Princess Ghida saluted the efforts of the CCCL “for the past 15 years, CCCL has worked to treat and save hundreds of children with cancer and blood diseases”; Talal added that everything we do and all that we work for is directed towards one single goal “to enable our children to overcome cancer by providing them with the best possible treatment”.
The first panel entitled “Requirements and Challenges of Childhood Cancer Management” directly started with an introduction from its moderator, Dr. Paul Eddé, Chairman of the CCCL Board 2010 – 2013 and current Treasurer and Chair of the International Outreach Committee at the CCCL who moderated the talk between Dr. Walid Ammar, Director General, Ministry of Public Health, Republic of Lebanon, Dr. Hassan El Solh, Prof. Dr. Tezer Kutluk, Immediate Past president of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), Department of Pediatrics Division of Pediatric Oncology Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine and Cancer Institute, Mr. Nicolas BouKather CCCL Secretary of the Board and Executive Committee Member, Dr. Yasser Wali, Professor, Head of the Pediatric Hematology Unit, Child Health Department, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital; the panelists discussed the extent of the spread of the disease in children in the region and their access to treatment, the economic challenges related to the Ministries of Public Health and the importance of the role of the civil society and the Non-governmental organizations in overcoming financial difficulties to support these children and their families.
In the second panel entitled “Awareness, Medical Management and Latest Treatment” Mrs. Roula Mouawad, journalist at AnNahar headed the discussion about medical awareness and management related to childhood cancer where doctors explained the symptoms, types of cancer, cure rates, available treatments, the latest treatments, discoveries and researches currently under way. The speakers were Dr. Nidale Tarek, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the AUBMC, Dr. Samar Muwakkit, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the AUBMC, Dr. Raya Saab, Deputy CCCL Medical Director, Director of the Pediatric Cancer Research Program at the AUB, Dr. Nabil A. Kabbara, Head Division of Pediatric Hematology Oncology at Centre Hospitalier du Nord, Dr. Nada Sbeity, Pediatric and adolescent Hematologist/Oncologist Lecturer at the Lebanese University- Faculty of Medicine Consultant at Rafic Harriri university Hospital, Makassed General University Hospital ,Zahraa University Hospital and other hospitals and Dr. Malek Baassiri, Pediatric Hematologist Oncologist and Pediatric Cancer Survivors Specialist - Hammoud Hospital.
The third panel entitled “Establishing a Network of Collaborative Centers and Programs for Childhood Cancer” focused on the establishment of a network of collaborative centers and programs in the field of pediatric cancer and the role of St. Jude Hospital in the region. Dr. Ali Taher , Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, Founding Director, Fellowship and Residents Research Program, Faculty of Medicine, Associate Chair, Research, Department of Internal Medicine, Deputy Director, Naef K. Basile Cancer Institute at the AUBMC moderated the panel while the speakers were Dr. Sima Jeha, Director, Leukemia/Lymphoma Developmental Therapeutics and Regional Director, Eastern Mediterranean Region, International Outreach Program, Dr. Miguel Abboud, Professor of Pediatrics and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the AUBMC, Dr. Abdul Hakim AlRawas, Member of Board of Directors, Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean Group (POEM), Senior Consultant, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology & HSCT, Department of Child Health, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Dr. Abdul Hakim AlRawas, Member of Board of Directors Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean Group (POEM Group), Senior Consultant Pediatric Hematology/Oncology & HSCT, Department of Child Health, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Dr. Elie Bechara, Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics and Attending in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Saint George Hospital University Medical Center and Getawi Hospital, Dr. Gladys Gemayel, Consultant, Pediatric Hematology Oncology at Rafic Hariri University Hospital and Dr. Peter Noun, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Balamand and USEK Universities Chairman of Pediatrics at Geitaoui Hospital Consultant, St. George University Hospital and NDS Byblos University Hospital.
The last panel entitled “Together On the Journey to Recovery” was moderated by Ms. Hoda Chedid, Reporter at LBCI News where several specialist and cancer survivors talked about the role of qualified nurses, the psychological impact of the disease and how it is addressed, and the challenges related to the completion of learning while taking the treatment. The speakers in this panel were Ms. Iman Al Kouatly, Director of Nursing Care Service at the AUBMC, Dr. Fadi T Maalouf, Associate Professor, Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs, Chief- Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry at the AUBMC, Ms. Nisrine Tannous, CCCL Fundraising Manager, Mr. Hassan Daouk, Volunteer Teacher at the CCCL, Mrs. Christiane Makarem, Head of Volunteers at the CCCL, Dr. Rihab Sidani, Head of Child Life Department, Children’s Cancer Institute at the AUBMC, Ms. Rim Hazouri and Mr. Ahmad Taha, Cancer Survivors
Thanks to all those who brought their interest and experience to our gathering and to all the attendees who have the vision, knowledge, wherewithal and experience to help us pave the way into the future.