Imagine being diagnosed with cancer, then being turned away because treatment is not available to you. Financially you may not be able to afford treatment, or perhaps the treatment you require is not available where you live. Your diagnosis is now a death sentence. This is an everyday reality for millions of individuals living in low and medium income countries.
Healthcare providers in developing countries face their own dismal reality. According to Ian Magrath, President of the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), "Healthcare providers are generally swamped with many more patients than they can adequately deal with and there is no time for continuing education". Perhaps the most concerning issue expressed by Dr. Magrath is the lack of "knowledge or infrastructure for the collection of data relevant to developing an effective strategy for cancer control and measuring the effects of interventions". Without such an infrastructure, the potential success for cancer control is limited.
Based on the tremendous need for cancer education and healthcare, a dedicated group of professionals came together to develop the concept for Open Education Resources for Cancer. What first began as an idea between Dr. Larry Lessin and Anil Srivastava quickly grew with international support. In May of 2007 several organizations came together to develop the concept of OERC; including INCTR, Capital Technology and Information Systems (CTIS), NCI and numerous universities. After a very successful meeting of the minds in Chicago in May of 2008, Open Education Resources for Cancer was officially established.
OERC seeks to provide free open source learning modules that will be available to all physicians, nursing and teaching staff as well as patients in the area of cancer research and training worldwide. The goal is to make such materials available to cancer institutions in at least 40-50 countries. As open education resources these materials will include access to full courses, training modules, course modules, research information and news through a web portal at no cost.
An enormous amount of groundwork has been laid and the potential impact of such a project has caused a great excitement among the cancer community. The concept of OERC is one which will connect the cancer community in ways that will grow knowledge and thus improve cancer treatment odds. Cancer specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers will have the ability to communicate information, questions and treatment plans to colleagues across the globe. Knowledge sharing is the only way to meet President Obama's goal of finding a cure for cancer within our lifetime.
Currently, OERC has created its organization through partnership with INCTR-Brussels. The Executive Committee, led by Dr. Larry Lessin, has been hard at work, coming together weekly to push OERC forward. The Steering Committee has grown tremendously as excitement for the project spreads.
Most recently, OERC has combined efforts with Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, MERLOT, to begin the first stage of knowledge sharing.