You may ask, “what does the topic of the Jericho Center for Medical Diplomacy have to do with this newsletter?”
My answer. Nothing in my life has taken more innovation, required me to deal with more bias, and been the financing challenge of a lifetime!
So hang in with me and find out the latest on this project since I wrote my original article in February 2021. But first, why take the time to read THIS article…
A lot has happened since I announced the Jericho Center of Medical Diplomacy a little more than five months ago, at the C3 US-Arab Healthcare & Business Summit.
There are three reasons for you to read this article:
- You care deeply about the tragedy of breast cancer to women and their families around the world.
- You are intrigued by “medical diplomacy” as a step toward peaceful co-existence for regions caught up in cycles of deadly conflict, mistrust, revenge, and hatred.
- You are fascinated by U.S. bred business people like myself and a team of motivated colleagues attempting something audacious in the Middle East, including building a healing oasis for Arab-speaking breast cancer victims using all of our talents and resources to prove that it CAN be done.
I was led to this project by several personal experiences:
- My early realization that “progress” in the form of science (including medicine) has always been THE shared common purpose of intelligent life – the only kind of activity that can bring people together across the bridge of a common language and a common belief system – faith that the world CAN be understood and then improved through the scientific method.
- My work in high tech management and investing, where resolving conflict between founders was frequently necessary. What I discovered is that long-brewing conflict, distrust, and resentment can best be resolved by making or building something together.
- The passing of my own mother from cancer might have been prevented had she gotten screened more frequently AND if she had not given up on her outpatient treatments, started in a later stage than optimal.
- My father’s reminding me near the end of his life of my commitment to making the world a better place for intelligent life.
So now an intrepid team of planners, innovators, builders, and scientists are engaged in an epic effort to build a new breast cancer treatment system for Palestinians and other Arabs in the Middle East. The key to its success will lie in the collaboration of people throughout the region — Israeli’s, Palestinians, and other Arabs in the gulf states. Let me summarize this program here, and if you’ve seen this summary before, just skip below to the progress report.
Summary of the issues
Problem: Breast cancer is the fastest growing and one of the most treatable forms of cancer. In the U.S., 88.6% of women live beyond five years after diagnosis. A similar survival rate is found in Israel. Yet in Jordan and in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, the 5-year survival rate is about 40%, a dismal outcome. Breast cancer (as well as other cancers) is practically a death sentence in these, primarily Arab, communities.
This is not a technical problem. It’s a problem of delivery and acceptance of existing medical technology. It’s also not a political problem since the same dismal outcomes occur on both sides of the Jordan River. We at the Jericho Center are committed to delivering existing technology to these regions in new accessible ways within the existing political and social framework, as outlined below.
The Jericho Center addresses three key issues:
1) Costly, inaccessible, and undesired screening methods (such as mammography). Because of the resistance to mammography, most Palestinian and more generally most Arab women in the Middle East don’t receive breast cancer screening very often if at all. This means that when the cancer is discovered, it’s in stage 3 or stage 4 – where the disease has spread to other parts of a woman’s body and is difficult to eliminate, rather than stage 1 or 2, when the disease can be more readily treated.
2) Insufficient pre-treatment guidance and financing. This leads to lengthy delays before treatment can begin, which further reduces the chances of survival.
3) Insufficient support for outpatient care which results in patients giving up and stopping their outpatient treatments (such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.) When patients give up their outpatient care in mid course, the chances of the disease returning and metastizing is much greater than if the full outpatient program were completed.
Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) such as the Jericho Center can address these issues directly, without first requiring political change, by means of bold collaborative action, education, and research.
Collaboration in science, medicine, and education, in turn, feeds the peace process in the region through a common language and common interests.
Summary of the Jericho Center of Medical Diplomacy solutions
The Jericho Center of Medical Diplomacy (JCMD) addresses the above issues in three ways, over the first eight years:
1) Introducing breath-based screening that is inexpensive, accessible and culturally-acceptable (as an effective alternative to the use of mammograms for breast cancer screening);
2) Offering treatment guidance and financial support so that women can get treatment before the disease progresses; and,
3) A Healing Oasis in the Jordan River Valley (near Jericho) to provide social and logistical support for patients and their families, so they’re likely to complete the full course of outpatient therapy.
The same center will also generate extra resources to share with the surrounding community, education and training for social workers and medical practitioners in Palestinian communities so that this progress is sustainable beyond the initial eight-year program.
Progress made in the last year
1) Launched clinical trials in Mexico for a breath-testing technology for screening of breast cancer, in a manner that is inexpensive, easy to do in a single short portable test that can be brought into patients’ neighborhoods and homes, and which is non-invasive and non-offensive even to the most conservative religious families. The company, Pulmostics, Inc. funded and directs these clinical trials, is co-founded by the late Maggie Tham (who died of breast cancer last year) and her husband Bill Wittmeyer. Our role in these initial trials has been largely moral support, but we have also made strides toward funding and organizing similar trials in Palestinian communities.
2) Completed research into the thinking process that leads Arab and Palestinian women to resist screening by mammogram. It’s essential to understand this thinking process and the emotional and social factors that harden this resistance if we have any hope of successfully introducing any alternative screening method.
3) Established a growing network of support in Israel and the West Bank Palestinian community, including relationships with hospitals who are in a position to treat Palestinian and Arab women from throughout the Middle East suffering from breast cancer.
4) Completed preliminary planning for the construction and operation of the Healing Oasis to be located in the Jordan River Valley.
For the next few years, we’re most excited about the possibility of clinical trials for breath-screening technology to screen for breast cancer. This by itself is a sea-change in the treatment of breast cancer. If widely accepted by Palestinian and more generally by Arab women, this screening method can be repeated annually by any woman. This change by itself would increase the survival rate from breast cancer significantly. This is part of the wider movement throughout the world toward frequent and simple screening for all kinds of diseases, not just cancer. This trend takes screening out of the doctor’s office and clinic, and into everyone’s homes, neighborhoods, and communities, where disease screening will become routine as DIY Covid testing has become.
What you can do to help
Please contribute what you can to our GoFundMe campaign to support clinical trials of breath-screening technology for breast cancer. To learn a little more about this campaign, just click to: GoFundMe campaign for breast cancer screening in honor of Maggie Tham.
If you have additional resources to bring to the Jericho Center of Medical Diplomacy, please feel free to connect with me at https://Intelliversity.org/connect.