Launch of IPONET

IPONET (Iraqi Pediatric Oncology Nursing Education and Training) is a project of Baghdad Resolve: An International Collaboration to Improve Cancer Care in Iraq. The project was launched in July 2016 with a series of meetings/workshops in Amman Jordan, by a team of six oncology nurses and five oncologists/ hematologists from Children’s Welfare Teaching Hospital (CWTH), Medical City, Baghdad, working with international partners.

We commissioned artist Nihad Dukhan, to create this calligraphy for our new project IPONET, asking him to combine Baghdad Resolve with a phrase that staff at CWTH agreed summed up our sentiments: A tree begins with a seed. His worked with this idea in mind: Baghdad Resolved - Baghdad is waking/getting up (from sitting or sleeping or defeat and destruction and rubbles), beginning the process of standing and re-growing, recollecting, shedding off problems.

The calligraphy arrived on July 3, the same day Baghdad suffered one of the  worst bombing attacks in years, with 300 reported killed and hundreds more  wounded. What to make of our hopeful calligraphy, and promises of  reawakening. Had it arrived too late, or perhaps too early? It would take time to  recover from the trauma of this attack. And what of our project launch in  Amman; after eight months of planning, would we be able to go forward?

Funding was secured, thanks to major support from Amgen, an international  biotechnology company, to the NGO, LIFE for Relief and Development and to  many personal donors such as you. The conference was scheduled for July  19-23, 2016 yet on July 3 we were still struggling to obtain visas into Jordan for  our Iraqi medical team: seven nurses and four pediatric oncologists and one  adult hematologist from CWTH, a colleague of the pediatric team. We feared  events in Baghdad would make getting the visas even more difficult.

Given this context, the overwhelming  success of our days together was  even more impressive. All of the  doctors, and six of the seven nurses  received visas. We were joined in  Amman by Kathy Houlahan, Nurse  Director from Dana-Farber Cancer  Institute, and Nesreen Fathy, Nurse  Researcher from Cairo Children’s  Cancer Hospital, by Dr. Paula Green  consultant, and mentor in the field of  inter-group relations and conflict  resolution and by two long time  friends and supporters of CWTH from  JIM-NET (Japan Iraq Medical  Network), Maki Sato and Shoko.

They participated honestly. They  supported each other, expressed  their gratitude for what was going  well and their concerns about the many problems on the unit.  They offered criticisms with  empathy and respect; they  listened carefully to one  another. They thought  creatively. They worked pro- actively on their own behalf,  with determination to  develop a realistic plan of  action, one that has the  possibility to succeed  because this is their unit;  they are the actors in this  play. They know the  Being outside of the chaos and  away from the personal and  professional pressures of life and  work in Baghdad was critical to  our success. Participants had time - a luxury for those living in  Baghdad - and a safe, calm  working space. People who had  never participated in anything like  this before rose to the occasion. situation, the possibilities  and the very real barriers  –lack of human and  financial resources, lack  of social and political  stability-- as well as the  personal challenges that  would face them when  they returned to Iraq.  Behind and beside - in  solidarity - with all of this  the internationals gave  personal and  professional support and  some guidance; there were offers for concrete help and collaboration as the  Iraqi team works to meet their goal of improving overall patient care by  improving education and training for the nurses at CWTH’s pediatric oncology  unit.

We wanted to foster and develop a sense of shared commitment and cohesion,  hoping doctors and nurses would leave with a better understanding of the  personal and professional needs of their colleagues. And, we wanted to  develop a concrete plan of action to achieve the six recommended Standards  for Pediatric Oncology Nursing Care in LMICs (Low/Middle Income Countries)  as recommended by SIOP/PODC (International Society of Pediatric Oncology/ Pediatric Oncology in Developing Countries) Nursing Working Group.

We think we achieved these goals.