We are proud to announce our very own Siona Hardy has been granted a prestigious 2022 Churchill Fellowship.
The exciting appointment will allow Siona, Queensland Youth Cancer Service’s Statewide Director, to travel overseas to learn about world-leading support options for adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors.
“Every year 1,200 Australian AYAs (15-25 year olds) are diagnosed with cancer and the subsequent treatment and interruption of development has long-term consequences,” says Siona.
Compared to young people who have never experienced cancer, AYA survivors have greater chronic disease, disability and mental health concerns. Siona says this means AYAs with cancer suffer “unique survival challenges” – medically, psychologically and economically.
She now plans, through her Churchill Fellowship, to bridge this gap.
Siona’s project will investigate successful AYA cancer survivorship models in North America, Canada, the UK and Netherlands.
By investigating best-practice models overseas, Siona will be able to report her findings to Australian health bodies, with a view to setting up similar AYA support services here.
“There are significant individual and societal costs of AYA cancer survivorship,” explains Siona. “Current limitations in post-cancer treatment contribute to increased suffering and disability, health care utilisation and cost, and mortality risk in AYAs.
“Australia is at the beginning of a journey to understand how to provide the best follow-up care for our young people.”
Churchill Fellowships, which involve an extensive application and interview process, offer recipients the opportunity to travel overseas for four-to-eight weeks to explore a topic or issue they are passionate about. Churchill Fellows design their own projects to investigate international best practice and innovation that can then be shared, and subsequently applied, here in Australia.
Siona will travel to the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Houston in the US, which is ranked as the top cancer hospital in the world. MD Anderson is known for its progressive AYA program with previous and current research to support AYA survivorship. While there, Siona will conduct interviews with the program’s health care professionals, as well as taking an observational role.
From there, she will travel to cancer centres and hospitals in Chicago, Toronto and Tampa. Her fact-finding mission will then see Siona travel to the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Centre in London, where she will conduct further interviews and observations, before concluding her tour in Amsterdam with a visit to the Netherlands Cancer Institute.
By investigating successful global AYA cancer survivorship models, it is Siona’s intention to share her findings via reports to the National Youth Cancer Services teams; presentations to Queensland Health and Canteen., and social media content.
It is her hope these learnings will contribute to long-term positive impacts for AYA cancer survivors in Australia, with the eventual establishment of better support services for this cohort.
“This could result in a better quality of life for AYA survivors by mitigating health and psychological challenges through early detection and management, and the ability to empower these young people through life transitions such as school, employment and family planning,” says Siona.
It would also lessen the burden on Australia’s healthcare system by minimising the severity of post-treatment trauma for young people with cancer – which would be a win for patients, healthcare services, and cancer survivorship models way into the future.