Merck Foundation supports the training of Thirty Future Oncologists in Africa through one and two year Oncology Fellowship Program in 2016 & 2017

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation meets the future Oncologists, who are undergoing Merck Oncology Fellowship Program in India 
As part of their Merck Cancer Access Program,
  • Merck gives back to society through Merck Foundation’s programs to build Cancer Care Capacity in Africa. 
  • Merck Foundation provides Africa with Thirty New Oncologists through Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program established in India, Kenya, and Egypt. 
  • SDG 3 calls us to sustainably invest in building Healthcare Capacity to improve access to equitable healthcare solutions.

Merck Foundation continues the second stage of their Africa Oncology Fellowship Program that started in 2016 with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa.
In June 2017, BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), and the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) released a White Paper on the African continent’s emerging cancer crisis.

Over 20% of African countries have no access to cancer treatments at all, while access is limited and sporadic in other countries. Later-stage diagnosis in African patients contributes to poorer outcomes. For example, 5-year female breast cancer relative survival rates are 46% in Uganda and 12% in The Gambia, compared with around 90% in developed countries, the report cited.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, "one of the main objectives of Merck Foundation is to build a strong platform of qualified Medical, paediatric and surgical oncologists across the continent through the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program”.

“Thirty candidates from Niger, Chad, Guinea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Liberia, Botswana, South Africa, Gambia, Senegal, Zambia, Namibia, Mauritius and Ghana have enrolled in the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program in partnership with African ministries of health, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Tata Memorial Centre, India, University of Malaya, Malaysia, and Cairo University, Egypt. We are very proud of our contribution to lead Africa to a better future through changing the landscape of Cancer care in the continent.” Dr. Rasha Kelej added.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation, and Dr. Kailash Sharma Prof. K.S Sharma, Director (Academics), Tata Memorial Centre with the fellows of Merck Oncology Fellowship program

In partnership with Ministries of Health and Academia across Africa, the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program provides one-year and two-year Oncology Fellowship Programs and a three-year master degree in Medical Oncology at Tata Memorial Centre, India, University of Nairobi, Kenya, University of Malaya, Malaysia, and Cairo University, Egypt, respectively.

(L-R) Dr. Rasha Kelej-CEO Merck Foundation, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E-, YBhg. Datuk Ir. (Dr.) Abdul Rahim Hashim, Vice-Chancellor, University Of Malaya, YBhg. Dato’ Professor Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.

Launched in 2016, with the aim to increase the limited number of qualified oncologists in the continent, 3 Medical doctors from Sub-Saharan African countries Kenya, and South Africa were granted a two-year Medical Oncology Fellowship at the University of Nairobi. In addition, Merck Foundation supported another two African doctors from Ghana and Tanzania for the Paediatric and Adult Medical Fellowship program that is conducted annually at Tata Memorial Centre, India.

In 2017; Merck Foundation partnered with more African countries such as; Rwanda, Liberia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Botswana and Uganda to provide 10 candidates with the one-year Oncology Fellowship Program in India and three candidates from Liberia, Ghana and Namibia to conduct a Master Degree in Clinical Oncology at Cairo University, Egypt.

“in 2018: We will continue to enrol more candidates and engage other countries on this program as we firmly believe this is a vital component of improving the quality and accessibility of cancer care in Africa, we received requests from countries such as: Niger, Guinea, Gambia, Central African Republic to partner with them through their First ladies offices and Ministries of Health to provide our Fellowship program to their doctors with the aim to improve access to quality cancer care in their countries and across the continent . Merck Foundation will continue their long-term commitment to further partner with more Sub-Saharan African Countries to realize their vision to create a strong platform of future trained oncologists “Dr. Rasha Kelej added.

The partnership between Merck Foundation and The African First ladies organization has been established in Jan 2018, to cooperate in building healthcare capacity with the special focus on cancer, Diabetes, and Fertility Care in their countries with the support of their Ministries of Health.

Merck Foundation supported the African Governments to define their strategies to emphasize on building professional capacity and focus on long-term training with the aim to develop trained oncologists and not only relying on Drug or equipment donation, but also help them to be independent and overcome their major challenge, which is the lack of skilled Oncologists and Healthcare professional in general.

Merck Foundation strongly believes that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to quality and equitable cancer care in Africa. 
Merck Foundation makes History:
Merck Foundation will train the first Medical Oncologist in some Sub- Saharan African Countries such as the Gambia and Guinea Conakry where they never had an Oncologist or Cancer Care facility, we are making history there and through them, we will transform people’s lives every day.

The annual platform of Merck Foundation -Merck Africa Asia Luminary and Solutions for Cancer Access:
Since 2013; Merck Africa Asia Luminary features a workshop dedicated exclusively to improve access to cancer care through Capacity Building through Merck Foundation, It convenes key players from the Global, Regional and local Cancer network, Health Ministers, and First ladies, with the goal of encouraging dialogue among stakeholders, raise awareness of the issues, explore partnership opportunities to generate ideas for potential solutions to existing challenges.

Merck Foundation's Vision and Call for Action:
“A world where everyone should lead a healthy and fulfilling life, this is Merck Foundation‘s vision. We are working together to achieve the Sustainable Development goals- SDGs. The SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, calls us to sustainably invest on building healthcare capacity to improve access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable healthcare solutions for all by 2030.” Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized.

The African Union has targeted by 2063, every citizen will have full access to affordable and quality health care services, and integrated and comprehensive health services and infrastructure will be in place, where services are available, accessible, affordable, acceptable and of quality.
Meet some of the Future African Oncologists who enrolled into Merck Oncology Fellowship Program:

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program, Tata Memorial Center, India:

Dr. Nihad Salifu
Paediatric Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


“Currently, Ghana has a population of about 26 million with a cancer rate of 109 per 100,000 people, and yet there is no single trained medical oncologist in Ghana. In addition, there are only three paediatric oncologists in the whole country, and our cancer cure rate is very low in children- it is about 20% when cure rates are approaching 80% in many developed parts of the world.

This huge human resource deficit in childhood cancer care is the main motivating factor for me applying to be considered for this training. I will benefit from this great opportunity being given to our country by Merck Foundation. The Merck Oncology Fellowship Program will add to the few oncologists in Ghana, to ease the workload and improve quality of patient care.”

Dr. Christina V. Malichewe
Adult Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


“Cancer is a growing concern in Tanzania, and limited facilities and few healthcare providers against the high rising number of patients diagnosed at advanced stages pose a great challenge to a developing country like Tanzania. Unfortunately, there are only two Medical Oncologists in a country of approximately 50 million people, one studied in Italy and another in China. We need more specialized Oncologists in this field. Thank you, Merck Foundation for starting this program!! However, it is only through unique opportunities such as the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program we can make the needed change in our societies to improve patient access to cancer care.” Christina Malichewe said. 

Dr. Abdulkadir M, Ethiopia
Paediatric Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


“Ethiopia is a country with approximately 100 million population. Currently, the country has three paediatric oncologists that serve the stated population. I am a faculty member and a general paediatrician serving kids suffering from cancer with no additional formal training in paediatric oncology. Merck oncology fellowship program will help me to update and upgrade my knowledge and skills in paediatric Oncology; this helps me to give the appropriate and quality care in our children in Ethiopia, hence improve their survival rate." 

Dr. Alemayehu Natnael
Adult Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Currently, there is not even a single oncologist in the Southern part of Ethiopia with an estimated population of 18Mn. There are only three oncologists in Ethiopia for about 100 Million population. Merck Oncology Fellowship Program is a golden path to tackle the growing challenge posed by cancer in Africa. I was delighted to know about and to be part of it. By completing this fellowship program, I feel that I will not only further my career, but I will also be a critical asset to my country and my people to address their suffering." 

Dr. Kabisa Mwala
Surgical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


” I am a general surgeon deeply interested in Surgical Oncology because of my passion for helping patients ravaged by cancer especially, women with breast cancer.  The Merck surgical oncology fellowship will enhance my knowledge and skills in the field of surgical oncology to better contribute to managing cancer patients in Zambia. My country and our patients will benefit from this much-needed skill and knowledge that I will gain from this training”.  He added.

Dr. Damas Dukundane
Adult Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


Merck Foundation is making history in Africa. When the opportunity of medical Oncology Fellowship was announced at the Health Ministry of Rwanda, I immediately showed my interest in it. Cancer care in Rwanda is still a scarcity, for slightly over eleven millions of Rwandans we have probably only one oncologist. Cancer is still a death sentence for many Rwandans who cannot access the necessary care that is often sought abroad. 

Not all solutions will come in one day, but for my patients and myself, this is a hopeful step towards achieving adequate cancer care in Rwanda and the region. I have a lot of expectations from the program and what to achieve after the training. I hope to become a leader in cancer treatment, researcher, and advocate for accessible treatment especially the underprivileged communities at risk. 

I sincerely appreciate the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship ad one of the many Merck Foundation initiatives to touch lives around Africa and in the world." 

Dr. Justin Mulindwa,
Paediatric Medical Oncology Fellow
Merck Foundation Alumni


“Currently, I am based at the Cancer Diseases Hospital which is the only centre providing Paediatric Oncology Care for children across a country of an estimated 15 million people with an estimated 45% being in the paediatric age group of up to 15 years old. Therefore, Merck Oncology Fellowship Program is very important for Zambia.  It provided me and other doctors with a unique training opportunity that will enhance paediatric oncology care, paediatric oncology research and teaching in the country.”

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