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“Since City Cancer Challenge started working in Asunción, people have begun to trust the providers of cancer care”

February 24, 2020

“Since City Cancer Challenge started working in Asunción, people have begun to trust the providers of cancer care”

  •  Dr Raúl Doria, Executive Director of the Grupo San Roque and Vice-Chair of City Cancer Challenge Board of Directors, assesses the impact on Asuncion of C/Can’s multi-sectoral approach to improving cancer care

After graduating from Asuncion Medical School in 1987, Dr Doria completed his studies in Internal Medicine at the University of Miami/JMH in 1992 and Hematology/Oncology at Yale University in 2004. He moved to Houma, Louisiana in 1995, and was associated with the Terrebone General Medical Center (TGMC) and the Chabert Medical Center. In 2014 he moved back to Asuncion after being appointed the Executive Director of Grupo San Roque, which manages four privately owned hospitals. He is currently developing an integrated oncology program with specialized surgery, radiotherapy and medical oncology. He recently talked to C/Can about the change already making itself felt in Asunción since the city joined our network in 2017.

Q: How would you sum up City Cancer Challenge?

Dr Doria: City Cancer Challenge is the best thing that ever happened to Paraguay: it has helped our country to see cancer as an enemy in a different way. Until now we ignored cancer as the main threat to our citizens’ health and we were not fighting it effectively. City Cancer Challenge has helped us bring together representatives from the private and public sectors, as well as civil society, and has shown us how to take a different approach, one based on organizing from the grass roots up so as to create the necessary structures to learn to deal with the growing burden of cancer in a sustainable way.

Q: What has C/CAN meant for the city of Asuncion and for Paraguay?

Dr Doria:  The change has come through bringing together the public and private sectors, along with academics and patient representatives. This has meant that we’ve been able to sit down, first to discuss how we were dealing with cancer, and then, after we realized that we were on the wrong track, to work out different approaches. City Cancer Challenge brought us all together and, for the first time, we have managed to find consensus among these different sectors of society, in turn creating a new paradigm that could also be a model for dealing with other issues that Asuncion faces.

Q: How important is the private sector in providing health and cancer care in Asuncion?

Dr Doria:  One of the main problems in Paraguay is that cancer treatment is so fragmented: until now, there was no coordination between the different hospitals and services, and so patients had long ago lost trust with hospitals’ ability to treat them. Traditionally, the first thing patients with resources do in Paraguay when they are diagnosed with cancer is think about where to go abroad for treatment. And this is not only an expensive solution, but the whole process turns people’s lives upside down.  The private sector here has some resources, but people do not trust our structures and organizations. Since City Cancer Challenge started working here, that is changing.

 Q: Would you recommend other cities to join the challenge, the challenge and why?

Dr Doria: As a member of the Executive Committee in Asuncion, I tell you that this is proving a fantastic experience and we are already contributing a lot to City Cancer Challenge, so that other cities can learn from our experience. At the same time, we are benefiting from the experience of other cities, not just in Latin America, but around the world. We are proud that we are now part of a network of cities that share their knowledge between them. I would unreservedly encourage other cities around the world to join forces with City Cancer Challenge

The arrival of C/Can in Asuncion has taken us from being locked in a vicious circle to instead enjoying the benefits of working in a virtuous circle.