University of Pennsylvania
Professor of Medicine
Deputy Director for Clinical Services
Director, Center for Global Cancer Medicine
Abramson Cancer Center, Perelman School of Medicine
Creating infrastructure and training health care professionals to ensure that previously underserved women in Rwanda receive quality screening and treatment for breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a major public health concern in low- and middle-income countries such as Rwanda, where women have a much higher risk of dying from their disease. This is due, in part, to delayed and late-stage diagnoses. By focusing on training and infrastructure, Drs. Shulman and Shyirambere have developed effective strategies to integrate early detection services into the health care system in rural Rwanda and reduce time to treatment. To date, the team has trained hundreds of Rwandan health care workers in ways to educate patients about breast cancer, perform high-quality breast exams, utilize ultrasound to identify those who may have cancer, and refer patients for timely diagnosis and treatment. Their program has provided breast exam screening to thousands of patients and expanded into four districts in the country, leading to significant improvement in patient outcomes in an area where women have a much higher risk of dying of breast cancer. They are now working to expand these efforts to reach more women with the goal of reducing breast cancer deaths in Rwanda and other low-income countries and shaping national cancer control policy.
One of their major innovations has been the development of a tablet-based electronic medical record that allows clinicians to share information across facilities and identify patients who have missed visits and re-engage them in care. This mobile platform also helps patients navigate the health care system and obtain timely care and maximize any follow-up care. Drs. Shulman and Shyirambere have developed and implemented a Women’s Cancer Early Detection Program Learning Collaborative in two key districts and 19 health centers in Rwanda. This Collaborative focuses on clinical mentorship, local leadership, and building a culture of data-driven practice improvement. In addition, Drs. Shulman, Shymirambere, and their colleagues are seeking to offer U.S.-driven advancements in diagnostic curriculum to Rwandan radiologists. To accomplish this, they have engaged a local leader and radiologist as a trainer to serve as a liaison. The team will leverage their success with virtual mentorship and employ the previously trained Rwandan medical staff to implement virtual and in-person ultrasound training and mentorship to other radiologists.
The team will continue to expand their clinical trials program to other districts in Rwanda and evaluate the program’s impact on the health system and patients. They will continue to refine their patient navigation model, to improve its delivery, address barriers to care, and facilitate patient re-engagement. In addition, Drs. Shulman and Shymirambere will further develop, implement, and test the innovative virtual curricula the team has created to expand the cadre of Rwandan clinicians with U.S. diagnostic skills and bring this important diagnostic service closer to patients’ homes and facilitate accessible, timely, and high-quality breast cancer care.
Lawrence N. Shulman, M.D., is the Deputy Director for Clinical Services of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of their Center for Global Cancer Medicine. He has a leadership role in the strategic development of cancer services for the Cancer Center and its affiliated hospitals and ambulatory cancer centers.
Currently, Dr. Shulman is Chair of the Commission on Cancer and serves on the National Cancer Policy Forum of the National Academy. He is the former Chair of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Quality of Care Committee and the Commission on Cancer’s Quality Integration Committee.
Dr. Shulman serves as Senior Oncology Advisor to the non-profit organization Partners In Health (PIH). The PIH mission includes the establishment of national cancer treatment programs with the Ministries of Health in Rwanda and Haiti, programs for which he plays a seminal leadership role. He sits on the Vice Chancellor’s Advisory Council for Rwanda’s University for Global Health Equity. In addition, he helps to lead the development of the national oncology program in Botswana through the Botswana-UPenn Partnership. Dr. Shulman is a former member of ASCO’s International Affairs Committee and their Task Force on Global Oncology as an Academic Career. He led the World Health Organization’s review and revision of their Essential Medicines for Cancer from 2014-2017.
A specialist in the treatment of patients with breast cancer, his research includes development of new cancer therapies, and implementation of cancer treatment programs in low-resource settings.
He received his MD from Harvard Medical School, and trained in Hematology and Oncology at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, MA
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