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    CureCervicalCancer Team

    Achieving Sustainability in a Broken System: Thoughts on Haiti

    April 29, 2017 | By | No Comments

    This week CCC’s Program Director, Rebecca, traveled back to Haiti. Read about her trip below:

    This week I returned to Haiti to visit current CCC “See and Treat” sites in the North region. I also had the opportunity to attend a conference in Port Au Prince hosted by Haiti Sans Cervical Cancer, a group which aims to aggregate all of the stakeholders in the fight against cervical cancer.

    Represented at the conference was the Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population (Public Health Ministry of Haiti or MSPP), the Society of Haitian Obstetrics and Gynecologists, the Haitian Group of Support Against Cancer, many Haitian doctors and nurses, and several international non-profit organizations. CureCervicalCancer is proud to be a part of this group which is the first of its nature in Haiti aiming to create a space for dialogue and an opportunity to work together to eradicate cervical cancer in Haiti.

    Haiti has the highest incidence of cervical cancer of any country in the world, and cervical cancer represents the leading cause of cancer-related death for women in Haiti. Most women have no opportunity to receive the HPV vaccination, to be screened for cervical cancer, or to be treated appropriately if cervical cancer is diagnosed.

    The MSPP is in the process of developing and implementing a national protocol for cervical cancer, and Dr. Reynold Grand- Pierre shared an outline of the protocol at the conference. It is important that CCC supports the MSPP goals and protocol, but I could not help but wonder how these goals will come to be achieved in such a complex and broken healthcare system.

    On Wednesday, I headed to Cap Haitien to visit current CCC sites. At each site, I was greeted with doctors and nurses, previously trained and certified by CCC in “See and Treat”. I was pleased to find all of the CCC equipment in good condition and to witness the passion for providing “See and Treat” that the doctors and nurses expressed. The challenges of providing “See and Treat” that the doctors and nurses reported to me matched my previous expectations: lack of awareness, lack of education, lack of money, and lack of support. The women in Haiti need more education about cervical cancer screening. Preventative healthcare is not valued in Haitian culture, so it is imperative that they receive education to understand that cervical cancer is preventable if detected in early stages. More doctors, nurses, and community health workers need to be educated about cervical cancer so that they are empowered to offer screening, treatment, and education to the community. The hospitals lack the money to pay for the supplies for “See and Treat”, especially the carbon dioxide gas which allows the cryotherapy device to freeze the lesions. Finally, the Haitian doctors and nurses lack support from the MSPP both in funding and in management. The doctors and nurses have the desire to offer “See and Treat” and the women need “See and Treat”, but there are many holes in the system.

    CureCervicalCancer has always prioritized the sustainability of our work. Our clinic sites in Haiti are fighting to achieve sustainability in a broken healthcare system. We are hopeful that the new plans set forth by MSPP will be successful in decreasing the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer in Haiti. In the meantime, CureCervicalCancer will continue to utilize creativity, strategic partnerships, and simple cost-effective methods to achieve our mission of early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. As always, we are so grateful to our friends and supporters who make it possible for us to reach the women who need us the most.

    Dr. Laura Bertani Reflects the Effectiveness of “See-and-Treat” Method

    March 28, 2017 | By | One Comment

    The smell of damp earth from the recent rains wafted through the windows of the tiny classroom, quickly shuffled to accommodate the projector and desks for eight trainees. A small space between desks accommodated a damp patch on the floor where the ceiling had been leaking. Three physicians and five nurses, here to learn VIA and cryotherapy, shared their names and backgrounds.

    Dr. Patty Gordon outlined the “See and Treat” method for prevention of cervical cancer. We reviewed case examples, and covered the nuts and bolts (literally) of connecting the carbon dioxide tank to the cryotherapy gun.

    Then, it was on to treating patients.

    We quickly split into teams began screening. Our trainees had varying levels of practical experience, but quickly learned to perform the exams. With each patient seen, our trainees became more efficient and confident. The three nurses in my training group, from a town called Limbe, all hoped to use the technique in their clinic. Only one had ever done a speculum exam. Read More

    What a Wonderful World-CCC’s Dr. Fischbein’s Rendition

    March 15, 2017 | By | 2 Comments

    I see trees of green, red roses too
    I see them bloom for me and you
    And I think to myself what a wonderful world
    I see skies of blue and clouds of white
    The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
    And I think to myself what a wonderful world

    (from “What a Wonderful World” Written by George David Weiss, Robert Thiele)

    From my familiar seat on our little bus I see clouds and haze and rice paddies, too. I also see propaganda signs, tall skinny dwellings and lots of motor scooters as I gaze out the window into the Vietnamese countryside. Staring out the window keeps my eyes off the road and the swerving and honking and frequent jarring that I’ve come to expect when traveling to remote places with the Cure Cervical Cancer (CCC) team. Sanity on the road here requires inner peace and occasional outright laughter. The dance of the traffic is almost as surreal as imaging pigs can fly until a truck carrying live pigs flies by, passing us on the right….twice….and we all just crack up. What a wonderful world it is!
    This is my second trip with CCC to help screen for cervical disease using the “see and treat” method of visualizing the cervix with acetic acid and offering immediate cryotherapy to those with positive findings. Donating money to a worthy cause is a charitable act. Donating time is even more selfless. I cannot praise enough the fantastic group of people I was so fortunate to travel with for their energy, dedication and sacrifice. While none of us really consider our volunteer work with CCC to be a sacrifice, in actuality, it is. These lovely people put their Los Angeles lives on hold for a week to give of their time and skill for the benefit of women they have never met. Thank you to Leila, Rebecca, Julia, Phorum, Alborz and, of course, Dr. Gordon.

    For me, volunteering to use a simple skill learned a long time ago to make a difference is very easy, yet very rewarding. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of cervixes in my 35 years as a physician. Determining negative from positive is not rocket science and yet, teaching and reaffirming these skills to the local doctors and nurses makes a huge difference in the lives of the women and families who access one of the 7 CCC clinics in the northern part of Vietnam.

    We were greeted each day with a cup of green tea as a welcoming tradition as we said our hellos to the directors in front of a bust of Ho Chi Minh and a mural of Lenin and Marx. Pretty much the only obvious reminder we were in a communist country.

    I was really impressed by the knowledge, skill, and efficiency of the medical personnel. I was also moved by the women who came from long distances to be seen by the American team and who were almost giddy to take selfies with us. How things have changed from my memory of Vietnam growing up in the 60s!
    The area around Halong Bay, famous for its exotic rock formations in the sea, is having a construction boom as the country embraces a limited amount of capitalism. Admittedly, the locals benefit mainly from the jobs and the tourism but it’s a start. They could use some wider roads with lane markers and rules but then it wouldn’t be quite the adventure. A real life Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride dodging scooters and buses, the occasional ox or cow and even a truck full of pigs, passing on the right! These are the funny fleeting twitter moments. What I will remember long after those are my amazing teammates, our wonderful ground partner Vu, translator, Han, my colleagues Dr. Dzung and Dr. Ha and the relieved and happy faces of all the local women who will never suffer from a 100% curable disease.

    The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
    Are also on the faces of people going by
    I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
    They’re really saying I love you
    I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
    They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know
    And I think to myself what a wonderful world
    Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

    Thank you CCC for the opportunity to serve.
    With affection, Dr. Fischbein

    Good Night Vietnam Ft. Dr. Gordon and Ground Partner Vu

    March 7, 2017 | By | No Comments

    Goodnight Vietnam ft. Dr. Gordon and Ground Partner Vu

    When I got off the plane to start this trip I never expected this. This sense of belonging. This sense of greater purpose. This sense of connection that I now have with the world.

    Vietnam is an untouched wonder
    Where the light shines a bit brighter
    Where the world seems a bit warmer
    Where the smiles seem a bit more real

    I’m Phorum Sheth and I’m the Program Coordinator at CureCervicalCancer. This is the last day of my second trip with CCC but I’ll carry these days with me forever.

    Phorum Sheth performing screening with vinegar with the help of Dr. Dzung

    I met Vu, our ground partner in Vietnam, when I got off the plane. He’s a small man but his smile is the biggest I’ve ever seen. He can fill a room with his passion and joy-and he has. Many times. Rooms filled with women Vu has found for us to screen.

    Vu has been with CCC for five years working as our ground partner. He met Dr. Gordon on his job as a tour guide through Vietnam. When Vu heard Dr. Gordon ran a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps women in developing countries, he tells me, “I had an idea. My mother was a doctor in rural areas of Vietnam. I watched patients come to my home, including a woman who gave birth right at my front door.”

    Vu decided to try to persuade Dr. Gordon to come to Vietnam but really didn’t expect much from it. Yet while on a tour in Hanoi with Vu, Dr. Gordon saw a Cancer Hospital and made him stop the car so they could check it out. Vu, shocked by this strange request, said I don’t think so. “You cannot do this. This is not allowed.” Dr. Gordon proceeded to jump a wall and while Vu protested Dr. Gordon’s son Ben, told him it was pointless. She entered the closed clinic and started directing the doctors there. Despite protests from doctors and an incessant Vu, she got what she broke in for. She promised to return and though no one believed her, within a few months she was back to set up clinics.

    Visiting the clinics again Vu is so impressed with the impact CureCervicalCancer has had so far. He tells me he thinks they are incredibly efficient and he’s getting no complaints from anyone as the Hoanh Bo Clinic saw 180 patients in 4 hours. He’s excited and is hopeful that CCC will return to help other areas of Vietnam.

    Vu is Vietnam personified. Cultured and polite with a deep sense of community. A strong motivation to create change.

    Vu says, “As a tour guide I’ve seen all over Vietnam a real need for healthcare. I want to help them from my heart, to give them a hand. I felt lucky to meet Dr. Gordon who is running this organization world-wide.”

    Dr. Gordon told me prior to the trip: “Take advantage of this opportunity that you have in front of you. This is the only time in your life you won’t be a tourist. You’re being invited into these people’s lives. Be enriched by their culture.”

    This beautiful energetic woman has so much to offer the world. I implore anyone who is reading this to stop and take a moment to consider the breadth of impact this single woman has made on the world. She is unlike the rest of us. Not limited by our natural laws, our fears, our unwillingness to bend the rules, our obsession to do things the right way. She has accomplished something indescribable this way. Breaking through these walls she has made it possible for 30,000 women in Vietnam alone to rest easy knowing they are protected from this horrific and completely preventable disease. And many more will have that opportunity as our organization grows. She is watching over them like she’s watching over women all over the globe. So sleep tight girls. Dr. Gordon is watching over us.

    I’ll leave you with one more thing before I say goodnight to Vietnam.

    It’s impossible to live fully
    To live without need.
    To live without want.
    To live without love.
    I can’t figure out what the world needs.
    Does it need money?
    Does it need education?
    Does it need food?
    Does it need healthcare?
    Does it need me?
    My whole life has been about this question
    Relief from this ongoing loop in my head.
    How can I be a contribution?
    How can I make a difference?
    How can I see myself in a special way doing what needs to be done?
    How far am I willing to go?
    How much do I want to help?
    What’s my limit?
    I could never say.
    One day I will look upon these walls [in Ha Long Bay] again and see them differently.
    I’ll see them less as keeping people out but as keeping good things in.
    Change your perspective and you can change the world.

    A special shoutout to Dr. Gordon and Vu for giving me this rich knowledge. I’ll never be the same.

    -Phorum Sheth PC
    Note- excerpts from poem by Phorum Sheth

    Thursday: We Miss You Already, Leila!

    March 4, 2017 | By | No Comments

    As we wrap up our 2017 Re-visit, Re-evaluate, Re-supply, Re-educate program
    in Vietnam, I reflect on my time with CureCervicalCancer and my numerous travel experiences with the team. I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow as an aspiring physician alongside people who prioritize service to others. I feel honored to have experienced the culture of each country that we work in through a different lens than would a typical traveler. Our team works with local healthcare professionals, translators, and drivers as colleagues and friends. We spend quality time getting to know each other. And there is a meaningful bond of gratitude, determination, and commitment that forms between us. The CCC training programs consist of hard work that is also fun and fulfilling. And that is because everyone genuinely values this work and cares about the cause.

    I am proud to have spent my time after college and before medical school contributing to the work of CureCervicalCancer. This type of cancer is preventable. The “See and Treat” method works, it is easy, it is cheap, and it saves lives. Each year, half a million women are dying needlessly throughout the world. I feel very passionate about working for women’s reproductive health because I recognize women as mothers, as caregivers, as essential in a healthy, happy family. And I have gained so much while giving back that words cannot describe.

    So thank you! Thank you for following our work. Thank you for supporting our mission. Thank you for making this all possible.

    –Leila Hariri
    Senior Program Coordinator

    Hello from Dong Trieu

    March 4, 2017 | By | No Comments

    We entered the CureCervicalCancer clinic in Dong Trieu, Vietnam (the Jay and Fish Collie Clinic) to deafening sounds of “Hello” ringing all around the room. 50 local women who were waiting to be screened had learned this greeting to show us their gratitude for the team coming so far to screen them. The energy was infectious.

    The women of Vietnam are waiting for you to donate #sayhello #womenofvietnam #donate #cervicalcancer #shero PC: Alborz Feizi

    A post shared by CureCervicalCancer (@curecervicalcancer) on

    My name is Alborz Feizi and I am a development engineer at the Ozcan Research Group at UCLA, where I design diagnostic technologies toward telemedicine and global health applications. I’m honored to join CCC on their trip to Vietnam as a Volunteer Program Coordinator and to support their amazing work.

    This humbling experience allowed me to shadow and learn from incredibly hardworking and inspiring individuals such as Dr. Dzung, the Director of Reproductive Health for the Quang Ninh Province. This dedicated woman takes it upon herself to journey by boat to remote islands in Vietnam and screen thousands of women. While she showed me how to diagnose positive lesions from negative ones, she explained to the team that these women have travelled many miles on their scooter bikes to be screened by the CCC team.

    Mountain View

    This particular training posed a challenge because Dr. Dzung and I did not speak the same language so we got creative about the way we communicated about patient diagnosis. To combat this challenge, Dr. Dzung would stand up and point to the poster below that included all the possible diagnosis. We didn’t miss a beat.

    Mountain View

    This opportunity was made even more special by an interview I took with the Vice Director of the Dong Trieu hospital, Dr. Doan Tuan Anh. I found myself in a beautiful office drinking tea with a man on the opposite side of the world. Thanks to our amazing ground-partner and translator, Mr. Vu, I had a great discussion with Dr. Anh about the effectiveness of cryotherapy and the See and Treat method in resource-limited settings.

    Mountain View

    Dr. Anh mentioned that their facility does not have a pathologist and they are not able to analyze Pap smears locally. It takes about 7-10 days to send the Pap sample to a center with a pathologist and that is cost prohibitive and rare. However, cryotherapy has been extremely effective in their clinics. Thousands of women have visited and many were eligible for the treatment.

    These words exchanged slowly through a translator hit me hard. I felt a deep appreciation for what CCC does and the impact it has made on this region. What struck me was the organization’s approach on using low-tech solutions. For example, a portable cryotherapy gun used in combination with a plastic speculum that contains rechargeable light sources allows healthcare professionals to visualize lesions on the cervix and treat them in mobile clinics that don’t have access to electricity.

    Mountain View

    We screened about 150 women that day and 19 of these women were eligible for receiving the cryotherapy treatment. Working with the local team to screen every woman who visited the clinic allowed me to better understand the complexities that arise from performing global health work on a large scale. In addition to portability and cost-effectiveness of the medical equipment, an important factor is training the local clinicians in the most efficient manner and providing them resources that sustain the screening program once the team leaves the area.

    Mountain View

    In this case the vinegar screening test (VIA – Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid) is an inexpensive screening method that CCC trains the local healthcare professionals in. I was fortunate to learn about the pros and cons of this diagnostic test from an expert OB/Gyn of 30 years, Dr. Fischbein, who volunteers his time with CCC. Dr. Fischbein mentioned that it really comes down to comparing vinegar test’s specificity and sensitivity with other methods but we also have to understand that many relevant diagnostic and treatment methods do not translate well in field-settings as of right now. As physicians, we have to work best with what we have available to give the best care possible to each and every patient.

    Through this experience I am more enlivened than ever to do my part in improving the delivery of healthcare to those who need it the most. Great work, CCC!


    Wednesday: Vietnam Clinics Continue to Impress Us

    March 1, 2017 | By | No Comments

    Today the CCC team visited two more clinic sites in Quang Ninh province, “Dr. Jay Collie Fish Clinic” in Dong Trieu and “Diane Pekow-Rickles Clinic” in Uong Bi.


    Dong Trieu was extremely busy. We arrived to a waiting room filled with excited patients. As we entered the immaculate and well-organized screening rooms, the women crowded in too, eager for their turn to be screened. Alongside the amazing Dr. Thuy, Dr. Lalong, and Dr. Dzung, the CCC team screened 150 women and 17 women were treated with cryotherapy.

    The team assigned to Uong Bi was pleased to arrive to a clean, organized clinic site with all CCC equipment in excellent condition. Even the original suitcase which once carried the “Clinic in a Suitcase” still sat in the corner of the room. The doctors at Uong Bi, though well-trained and competent, were eager to screen patients alongside Dr. Gordon and happy to cross-check their opinion with her.


    It is incredibly fulfilling to see that the “See and Treat” programs in our Vietnam sites function seamlessly. Even more gratifying is to witness the deep appreciation of the patients who are grateful to be screened and understand the life-saving value of “See and Treat”.

    Tuesday: Teamwork Makes A Dream Work

    February 28, 2017 | By | No Comments

    The story of CCC’s “See and Treat” clinics in Vietnam began with a woman who saw a need. That woman was Dr. Gordon, who visited a hospital in Ha Long town several years ago and saw that there were hundreds of women who did not have access to basic preventative screening for cervical cancer. Dr. Gordon shared her desire to make a difference with Vu, a Vietnamese travel agent who has now become an indispensable friend and supporter of CCC. Vu understood the need, and he believed in Dr. Gordon’s vision. He connected Dr. Gordon with Dr. Dzung, who oversees 14 high volume health centers in the province of Quah Ninh. Three years later, CCC has returned with a brand new team to visit the 7 CCC clinic sites. Accompanied by Vu and Dr. Dzung, our two teams arrive each day to a smiling group of doctors, hundreds of patients waiting to be screened, and an immaculate clinic. The equipment donated by CCC is well cared for, and the doctors demonstrate excellence in their technique of “See and Treat”.

    1 or 2 Dzung

    In light of all the negative news that we read each day, CCC would like to remind all of our supporters that we can create positive change. Our CCC clinics in Vietnam have screened over 26,000 women to date for cervical cancer. Many lives have been saved. It all started with a woman who saw a need, decided to do something about it, and found the right partnerships to make it happen.

    This post would like to honor Dr. Gordon, our relentless and passionate ground partners, Vu and Dr. Dzung, all of the CCC staff who worked hard to train the clinic sites in Vietnam, and our extremely generous donors who support our work. It is only Day 2 and we can say confidently that Vietnam is a success story for CCC. We look forward to expanding our clinic sites in Vietnam in the near future.

    vietnam blog

    Monday: The Angel Clinic at Quang Ninh

    February 28, 2017 | By | No Comments

    CCC is back in the north coastal region of Vietnam.

    Watch this one-minute video to see what we were up to on our first day in clinic.

    Enjoy our photo story stay tuned for more! CCC is excited to share their work with the world.

    And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel!

    Sunday: Good Morning, Vietnam!

    February 26, 2017 | By | No Comments

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    After months of careful program coordination and a solid 29 hours of a 7,649-mile voyage, CCC has arrived in Vietnam, at last! We are excited to see our friends here in the northeast region of Vietnam, and we are ready to roll!

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    (Dr. Gordon reuniting with Vu, our wonderful ground partner who does everything in his power to connect local communities with CCC)

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    (Vu & the CCC Team en route to our first stop: The Angel Clinic at the Major Reproductive Center in Quang Ninh. The Vietnam 2017 CCC Team: Dr. Patricia Gordon, Dr. Stuart Fischbein OB/Gyn, Program Director Rebecca Lepsik, Senior Program Program Coordinator Leila Hariri, Communications Director Julia Scott, Program Coordinator Phorum Sheth, & Volunteer Program Coordinator Alborz Feizi)

    This will be CCC’s fourth trip to Vietnam, where seven CCC “See & Treat” clinics are thriving to a remarkable extent, thanks to our partner Dr. Dzung, Director of Reproductive Health for the entire Quang Ninh Province.

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    We’d like to kick off this week by honoring our wonderful ground partners out here in the field. Always warm and welcoming, unbelievably devoted and hard-working, our team in Vietnam is truly a model for how to be the change everyone wants to see.

    In fact, while CCC does have plans to certify 12 of Dr. Dzung’s trainees, the major objective of this trip is to gain insight in to what it is that makes clinics here so effective. As we train new team members, we plan also to assume the learning role as we evaluate the clinical teachniques and systems of operation that have evolved so optimally here in Vietnam. Our goal is to carry these keys to success to other CCC clinics throughout the world, to share the knowledge, and to open doors to access more women and to save more lives!

    This is a very special trip for CureCervicalCancer and we want to share it with you. We invite you to follow us this week as we visit our seven highly active clinics in Vietnam. Each day we will be posting updates, photos, and videos in hopes that you’ll get involved, learn with us, and experience and celebrate the progress taking place for women worldwide.

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    We’ll see you very soon!