The institution that is sponsoring my Fulbright research is the Chennai Cancer Institute (WIA). It was founded in 1954 by Dr. Shanti who was the first Indian woman to graduate in Medicine. She is 91 years old and is the current chairperson of the Institute. I had the privilege of meeting her at the Youth Health Mela sponsored by the Cancer Institute at the end of February. The Cancer Institute is a tertiary level cancer center that provides state-of-the-art treatment to cancer patients, irrespective of their income. It was established by the Women’s India Association (WIA) (mentioned in my post on the Theosophical Society). It is the only comprehensive Cancer Centre in the state of Tamil Nadu, serving over 125,000 cancer patients and more than 13,000 new cancer cases annually.
Established in 2007, the Psycho-Oncology unit was the first department of its kind in India. A team of psychologists, social workers, and scholars (students working on Masters degree in psycho-oncology) provide counseling and comprehensive psychological interventions to cancer patients and caregivers from diagnosis until follow-up, including bereavement. They facilitate various support groups, including stoma support group meetings, SMILE pediatric support group meeting, and Tobacco Free Association meetings. Education programs also include a Ph.D. program in the field of Psycho-oncology in affiliation with the University of Madras, hands-on training through internships for students (Psychology and Social Work) and training for professionals such as physicians and dentists in the area of Psycho-oncology and primary prevention of cancer. The Department is also actively involved in the community-based intervention programs primarily aimed at cancer prevention through educational and awareness programs in schools and colleges, corporate institutions and community at large.