American Univesity of Beirut

AUBMC launches the Cancer Support Fund for adult patients in Lebanon

​Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communi​cations,​

AUBMC launched the first-of-its-kind Cancer Support Fund in Lebanon. The mission of this charitable initiative is to offer financial and psychosocial support to financially disadvantaged adult cancer patients in need, assuring that they have equal opportunity to receive appropriate healthcare services.  The fund also aims to raise awareness on cancer prevention and support advanced research.

​The launching press conference was held on March 20, 2018 at which several governmental figures attended, in addition to high profile community leaders and senior AUB and AUBMC faculty and staff members.   

Ghassan Hasbani, deputy prime minister and minister of public health, spoke at the event saying that the ministry supports the great efforts that have yielded the launching of the Cancer Support Fund, which will provide the community with a better chance of prevention, early screening, and treatment for many adult cancer patients. Hasbani added, “AUBMC has a long proven record in improving the health of its entire regional community, particularly those that need it the most, in addition to advancing research, and in securing specialized expertise in various academic and medical fields.”  

Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, AUB president, delivered his speech saying,  “Our experience equates that of the most comprehensive vision of cancer centers in the United States and Europe, which emphasizes research, treatment, and prevention of cancer. We attest to our world class research and treatments, and it is about time we move to an era of cancer prevention, which includes quitting smoking, following healthy habits such as exercise and nutritional interventions until we reach a stage of adopting a healthier diet.”

Khuri added, “It gives me great pleasure to launch the Cancer Support Fund today which will facilitate cancer care, research, and prevention and make it accessible to the largest number of adult patients with cancer. I have devoted my entire career to fighting cancer especially when it affects the most vulnerable. This fund is but a simple reflection of my message in this life.”

Dr. Ziyad Ghazzal, deputy executive vice president/dean, interim medical center director, and chief medical officer, spoke at the press conference representing Dr. Mohamed H. Sayegh, executive vice president for medicine and global strategy, and Raja N. Khuri Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. 

“Survival is a fundamental right, and it is our responsibility to seek opportunities for achieving sustainable development,” said Ghazzal. “At the roots of our existence is the obligation to build trust in the community that affords us so much, and we are committed to making a difference by advocating the advancement of health through expanding investment to grow fundraising opportunities.” 

Zahi El Haiby, director of the minister’s office, spoke on behalf of Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi. He said that the ministry values partnership with the public and private sectors, especially the prestigious institutions such as AUB and its medical center. “Awareness is the best treatment. We salute your main role with adults and your intervention, which works towards avoiding the effects of the disease and makes them more integrated in their immediate surroundings and in society,” said El Haiby.

Hala Dahdah Abou Jaber, president and founder of the Cancer Support Fund, noted in her speech that, “We will work hand in hand with those in need to save a large segment of society that is suffering from this disease.” She added that it is the mission of the Cancer Support Fund to work, under the umbrella and care of AUB and its futuristic vision, to bridge the gap and engulf adult cancer patients with the right treatment options.   

Dr. Ali Taher, director of the Naef K. Basile Cancer Institute and co-founder of the Cancer Support Fund spoke about the negative environmental and genetic factors that cause cancer. He mentioned statistics that show how cancer is increasing while human life expectancy is rising, and therefore covering the entire cost of cancer is a burden on the budgets of governments and countries that face economic difficulties. 

“Although prices are becoming cheaper in several areas such as energy and land costs, the cost of health is on the rise, not only because of costly technology, but also because of the rapid spread of transitional and non-transitional diseases. Cancer is perhaps at the top of these diseases,” said Taher. “Governments of many developed countries have borne the brunt of cost and spending on the health sector and have not been able to live up to their promise of decent health coverage,” he added.

Taher concluded: “If this is what happens in developed countries, how can countries overcome economic problems? Hence, the importance of giving, donating, and connecting with solidarity. Whatever it is named, our goal is one: a patient struggling with dignity against a deadly disease that could not be overcome by science.”

Statistics about cancer incidence are rising in all countries; Middle East incidence is relatively higher than other countries, and this represents an increased burden on societies. According to the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health National Cancer Registry, cancer incidence in Lebanon has increased from 191 per 100,000 in 2003 to 270 per 100,000 in 2015. Many of these patients are underprivileged and face challenges in accessing advanced healthcare services that can lead to optimal outcome and increase survivorship rates.

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