Medical Outreach with OCA: Defeating the Stigma Behind Cancer 

Talia Rajasekar ’21, describes her experience volunteering with the Oman Cancer Association.

This summer 25 students were accepted in the CSGC grants program. These grants are funded due to the generous support of the Cost, Earle/Mendillo and Workman families, who established endowment funds to support the community and public service endeavors of future generations of Deerfield students. For more information on these grants please visit: https://deerfield.edu/csgc/grants.

It’s an odd thing: identifying areas of improvement and the need for activism in your own hometown. They’re in the roads you’ve run down a thousand times, among familiar faces along the street, under the summer heat you know all too well. For me, this place is Muscat, Oman. It’s my home, and it’s the site of an active battle against cancer.

This summer, I am volunteering with the Oman Cancer Association (OCA) to help women find early diagnoses so that they can enroll in timely, effective treatment. Here, I have been volunteering in the Mobile Mammography Unit—an initiative that provides free mammograms to all women over the age of 40—and in the ultrasound room.

Usually, the MMU travels throughout Oman, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organization administration has advised against travelling into the country’s interior. Because of this precaution, the MMU has been active, but only within the capital. Nonetheless, for the past month, I have been able to help register a number of women who come to OCA looking for mammography services and explain the general process to them. Thanks to the CSGC grant, both the mammogram machine and the mobile unit it is housed in has been maintained and sterilized well in order to keep mammography services available to those who need them. Furthermore, this fund has allowed for our essential staff (like our radiographer) to wear PPE while taking care of her patients, since staff like her cannot avoid close contact with these women.

There were also women who felt uncomfortable getting a mammogram because the process was so foreign (it involved the patients partially undressing) and the results weren’t immediate (they took about two weeks). My duty as a volunteer was to provide kind and patient attention to these women. Therefore, walking these patients through the mammogram process was of utmost importance, and I personally reassured those who were nervous about their results. With regards to the ultrasound initiative, I worked together with OCA staff to sterilize the room top to bottom after each appointment. This involved changing the sheets, wiping down all equipment, and replenishing any necessary medical tools.

My work so far has been in the preventative field of anti-cancer efforts, but it is not where my volunteering ends. In the coming month, I will also be volunteering with Dar al Hanan, an initiative that translates to “home away from home,” to help children who have been diagnosed with cancer. This is an institution designed by OCA to provide food, transportation, and living accommodations for children and families who have been affected by cancer. Since the institution has refrained from installing televisions in children’s rooms to prevent social isolation, it will be my responsibility to create a safe environment for activities and socialization among the children through books, toys, and games purchased by funds from the CSGC grant. Furthermore, children with cancer, especially those travelling from the interior and even abroad from Yemen, often fall behind on their learning. I will use the school supplies purchased with this grant to help them keep up with their education and will help unpack and manage the food distribution for each child at the center.

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