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11 Mar 2020
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Executive Director's Message March 2020

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
Planning today for tomorrow's future

During this time of uncertainty due to the coronavirus COVID-19, rest assured there is cooperation among VCCC leaders and the healthcare sector to minimise the impacts whilst managing health and safety for all.  Our active and mobile workforce is likely to be challenged for some while longer and I know you will support each other to make whatever concessions may be required for the benefit of all.  

Following my post last month in which I advocated for significant change in gender equity and health delivery parity, I would like to thank everyone who supported our fantastic International Women’s Day (IWD) event at the VCCC last week. 

Gender Equality Act

In her opening remarks at the IWD forum, Dr Dayna Swiatek, Acting Assistant Director Cancer Strategy and Development, Department of Health and Human Services highlighted the significance of the Gender Equality Bill that recently passed through the Victorian Parliament. This landmark Act requires us all to plan for, develop and track progress towards improving gender equality at all levels of the workforce, including closing the gender pay gap. Across the public sector as a whole, the median base salary for women is around 11 per cent less and shows more women in hands-on healthcare and teaching roles, with a lower proportion in managerial positions. In the area of translational research there is gender parity in early career stage research fellowships, but research funding overall is still proportionally awarded to male investigators. Clearly an opportunity for our sector to show leadership.

Shared goals stimulus for sustainable change

During the IWD event, VCCC Board Chair, Professor Linda Kristjanson AO, proposed that priorities like inclusion, fairness, social responsibility, digital cognition and leading in a network were not widely embraced in the leadership manifesto a decade ago. Our rapidly changing world brings new and unique requirements. In the relatively short history of the VCCC we have seen that enabling congregation and effort towards shared goals provides enormous stimulus for sustainable change.

Among the torrent of responses to the current COVID-19 challenge was a Twitter post from American writer Anand Giridharadas who commented on the value of equity and diversity in the face of a health crisis. Giridharadas said “Your health is as safe as that of the worst-insured, worst-cared for person in your society. It will be decided by the height of the floor, not the ceiling.”  Putting this in the context of our present efforts against overcoming cancer, just last month the World Health Organisation claimed that if current trends continue, the world will see a 60% increase in cancer cases in the next 20 years with 81% of new cases in low-and-middle-income countries. These are the places where survival rates are the lowest. Inexorably and globally the cancer burden is rising – but not equally.

All the same, I am uplifted at the power of discovery and traditional research to tackle our biggest health problems. Published just last week in Cell was an important study identifying the receptor and a co-receptor protease required for viral entry into cells - and a drug that inhibits the protease, that is currently approved for human use in chronic pancreatitis in Japan.

Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024

Cancer continues to be the greatest disease burden in Victoria. In the last five years, the VCCC has made substantial improvements in the identification, treatment and management of cancer; consistent with initiatives outlined in the current Victorian Cancer Plan. 

With the final version of the Victorian Cancer Plan (VCP) 2020-2024 due to be released in the next few months, the 3rd Victorian Cancer Survivorship Conference in Melbourne today and tomorrow represents a great opportunity to  hear from and network with national and international leaders in the field and to consider survivorship priorities across the care system.

The anticipated VCP 2020-2024 will identify priorities to prevent cancer, increase survival, improve the experience of the cancer treatment and care system, and achieve equitable outcomes for all Victorians. 

We are looking forward to sharing the practical aspects of the VCCC’s next phase as we approach the new financial year. High on our list of priorities will be to continue to build a better future for people living with and beyond cancer and, inherent in that goal, a cancer health system and delivery where no-one misses out. 

Professor Grant McArthur
Executive Director

Image left to right: Dayna Swiatek DHHS, Shelley Dolan Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Sue Matthews The Royal Women's Hospital, Sophy Athan VCCC Cancer Consumer Advisory Committee, Kylie Mason VCCC Cancer Education and Training Advisory Committee, Linda Kristjanson VCCC Chairperson and Vice-Chancellor Swinburne University, Anna Boltong VCCC Associate Director.