Singapore, 16 July 2020 – Dr Yusran Othman, a paediatric surgeon from Malaysia, is close to completing his exchange fellowship, which started in August 2019. He had applied for the exchange fellowship under the VIVA-KKH Paediatric Brain and Solid Tumour (PBST) Programme to gain clinical and surgical skills in managing children who require surgery for their cancer treatments. Dr Yusran Othman’s fellowship, which lasts for a duration of one year, has allowed him to acquire the knowledge to diagnose, perform surgery and provide postoperative care pertaining to paediatric surgical oncology.

“As a medical doctor, I hope to do my best to help the children in my country. Through this fellowship, it is also my hope that I become the first Malaysian paediatric surgeon with formal training in surgical oncology. I wish to improve the paediatric surgical oncology services in Malaysia, as well as formulate better training opportunities for other like-minded colleagues,” said Dr Yusran Othman. (Refer to Annex A for quotes from other fellows)

Since the commencement of the exchange fellowships in September 2018, six fellows and observers from Cambodia, China, Malaysia, Myanmar and Pakistan have been trained thus far.

KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), together with VIVA Foundation for Children with Cancer (VIVA), and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, USA (St. Jude), established the VIVA-KKH PBST Programme to advance the care of childhood brain and solid tumours in Singapore and the region.

To complement the Programme, an Education and Exchange initiative was introduced in 2018 to enhance inter-institutional collaboration, to reach out to the broader population of healthcare specialists, especially in fields like paediatric surgery and pathology, in the Southeast Asian region, as well as integrate training and education into the healthcare and research activities.

The initiative encompasses exchange fellowships where medical doctors from surrounding countries are invited to participate in a clinical training fellowship in KKH, with a focus on the care of paediatric patients with brain and solid tumours. These exchange fellowship programmes in pathology and surgery are established on a long track record of regional fellowship programmes since the late 1990s. In particular, the paediatric Haematology/Oncology Service in KKH has been training medical oncologists from countries around the region. At the end of the training period, these doctors will bring their newly gained expertise and experience back to their home countries.

“Brain and solid tumours make up over half of all childhood cancers and account for the majority of malignant deaths in children. Their treatment is complex, and requires coordinated efforts from a whole team of diverse medical subspecialties. Through our Programme’s research on childhood cancer care in Southeast Asia, we found that many regional hospitals only had oncologists but may not have other specialists with the necessary expertise to care for patients with brain and solid tumours. We realised we could benefit many other children by sharing the skills and knowledge of our experts in Singapore,” said Dr Amos Loh, Chairman, Steering Committee, VIVA-KKH Paediatric Brain and Solid Tumour Programme. Dr Loh is also a Senior Consultant with the Department of Paediatric Surgery at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“It is by working together with institutions like KKH and with medical professionals across the region that we can accelerate our understanding and treatment of childhood cancers, provide better care for patients, and ultimately save more lives,” said Mrs Jennifer Yeo, Chairman of the VIVA Foundation for Children with Cancer. “VIVA remains dedicated to supporting collaborations that will help give children with cancer their best chances to live.”

The VIVA-KKH PBST Programme was conceived as a five-year strategic pilot, leveraging on KKH’s strength and network in treating paediatric brain and solid tumours. It focuses on three areas, namely, improvement of clinical care for childhood brain and solid cancers, bench to bedside translational clinical research for childhood brain and solid cancers, as well as prevention, control and population-based science.