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Photo courtesy Robert Hood / Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

When Seattle oncologist Corey Casper landed in Uganda in 2004, he was greeted by an orange sun rising over Lake Victoria, the smoky haze wafting from Kampala’s charcoal stoves—and a dilapidated cancer hospital that predated Idi Amin. Hundreds of patients queued in the dirt, hoping to lie two or three to a bed on bare metal frames. “I thought, This is not like any place I’ve ever seen,” remembers Casper.

There was only one cancer physician in the entire country, yet cancer killed more Ugandans than HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. So even before the Global Oncology program had a proper name, Casper began bringing African physicians to Seattle for training. Now part of Fred Hutch’s worldwide treatment and research program, Global Oncology has nearly doubled Uganda’s Burkitt lymphoma survival rate from 30 percent to 55 percent in two years. This May GO helped open a $10 million state-of-the-art cancer center in Kampala, where patients still line up—but now for meaningful, effective treatment. And for the 16 newly trained physicians who have returned to Uganda, says Casper, “They tell me how wonderful it can be to practice oncology and be able to save your patients.”

 

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