On 8 March, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Roche in collaboration with Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has acknowledged the achievements of women in oncology by releasing the ‘Women as Change Agents in Oncology Report’.
The report celebrates various women throughout history who have made important contributions to the impact of cancer and care in the future.
One of these women is Professor Julia Downing. Prof Downing is a palliative care nurse who has been working in palliative care in Uganda, Eastern Europe, Africa and elsewhere around the world for the past 25 years.
She is an Honorary Professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and is also Director of Education and Research for the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), amongst various other roles.
Prof Downing has been instrumental in developing palliative care in Africa and Eastern Europe. “I moved to Uganda in 2001, where I have been working with organisations to develop all elements of palliative care across the continent, from technical palliative care and knowledge sharing, to health policy and research,” she said.
She also spent time in Serbia as a European Union (EU) project team leader to develop palliative care in the country.
Prof Downing is concerned about the levels of inequality across the cancer care spectrum, particularly amongst the poor and the most vulnerable. She said: “In palliative care, there is great inequality in care for children, something I am trying to address through my work with the ICPCN.”
She believes all of us can make a difference, no matter where we work or what we do: “Whether it’s a difference for one individual with cancer, or for all of those with cancer in a hospital, a nation or the world.
“In Africa we have a saying, ‘if you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito’. It may be challenging and we may need to step outside of our comfort zones, but we can achieve great things when we work together and persevere.”
To read Prof Julia Downing’s full interview, visit the Roche website.