Pictured is Dr. Sujatha Samarakoon, Ann Selle and Meneka Galgamuwa, president of the Zonta Club of Colombo II
While touring Sri Lanka in 2017, Ann Selle, a member of the Zonta Club of Botany Bay, District 24, visited the Zonta Club of Colombo II, District 25. Ann, who designed and developed the breast care cushions in Australia, discussed the care of breast cancer patients and discovered that many Sri Lankan patients have late diagnosis and higher mortality than in other countries. Ann outlined the role of breast cancer nurses in Australia and ways they encourage women to self-examine for breast cancer.
As a result of this meeting, both clubs set about getting sponsorship and funding for a training workshop in Colombo. Ann sought the assistance of Breast Physician Meagan Brennan, PhD, and Nurse Educator Kim Kerin-Ayres from the Breast Institute at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, Australia, to plan the project. In February 2019 they traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka to run the two-day workshop for nurses. In conjunction with the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka and the Zonta Club of Colombo II, Zonta Cares, which is part of the Zonta Club of Botany Bay Inc, provided training by two Australian specialists to 48 nurses and 8 doctors from all over Sri Lanka.
It was a great success and club members hope follow-up training will be completed within the year.
The training included information about risk factors, awareness, diagnosis, surgery, treatment and supportive care for those diagnosed with breast cancer. The nurses involved also began planning ways to educate the Sri Lankan community in breast cancer awareness.
As a result of this training course, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health has recommended that breast care nurses be recognized and receive further training and also that breast cancer centers be established across the country where education, diagnosis and treatment could be better conducted.
The Ministry of Health representative at the workshop stated that this was the best workshop he had attended and has given support to proposed positive changes in the way in which women are educated about breast cancer so that improvements in diagnosis and treatment of the condition will result.
These outcomes would not have occurred had it not been for Ann’s vision and commitment and the organization of Dr. Sujatha Samarakoon, a member of the Zonta Club of Colombo II, in obtaining government approval for the nurses to be trained and recognized in this area.
This Zonta initiative between districts has resulted in not only a better educated nurse fraternity in Sri Lanka, but also lasting friendships between clubs. This type of collaborative project could serve as a model for future Zonta clubs interested in improving the lives of women in their areas.