Strengthening communities:  IHTC and Reach-the-World Programs have impact

This Bayer-supported session brought together representatives, members and fellows of two unique programs lead by the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) and the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH). The session was led by Gregory LeCleir, Global Lead, Customer Engagement, Hematology, Bayer. “The WFH International Hemophilia Training Centre (IHTC) and the ISTH Reach-the-World Programs shape the advocacy of treatment landscapes, provide support to healthcare professionals in developing countries and promote ongoing collaboration.”

Antonio Almeida, Director of Programs and Education, WFH, gave an overview of the IHTC fellowship program, which began in 1972 and now has 722 fellows from 97 countries. Fellowships are undertaken at designated IHTCs, with contact initiated during training and maintained throughout the alumni community. The aim of the Program is for trained fellows to apply expertise in their own country. Ninety per cent of fellows continue to work in the field up to 5 years after receiving training, with the majority reporting that the Program has led to changes in hemophilia management at their centre. “Many fellows have gone on to become key opinion leaders in their own countries,” Almeida announced.

Cary Clark, Director of Programs and Education at the ISTH, presented on the ISTH Reach-the-World Program, which is dedicated to the development of young professionals and the education of physicians, scientists and allied healthcare professionals wherever they live. The Program provides travel grants, educational courses, fellowships and support for regional training centres (RTCs). Membership has risen from 4,464 members in 2016 to 5,202 members in 2017, with 98 countries represented. Early career professionals are the focus for fellowships; prospective fellows must be within 10 years of their degree.

Perspectives from countries affiliated with these programs were provided by representatives from Brazil, Ghana and Germany. Claudia Lorenzato, MD, Brazilian Hemophilia Federation completed her IHTC fellowship in 2012. “Before my fellowship I needed experience on primary and secondary prophylaxis, and how to educate patients and colleagues on the importance of proper treatment and care,” declared Lorenzato. Following her IHTC training, Lorenzato saw notable improvements to her region’s care provision. Pre-2012, people with bleeding episodes were only treated in centres. Following the introduction of the IHTC fellowship program, physicians prescribe 4 months of prophylaxis and provide education on self-administration.

Martin Boayke, Founder of the Ghana Hemophilia Society (GHS) stated that the GHS receives no government support but was inaugurated by the IHTC in 2009. This has enabled the GHS to create awareness of hemophilia, provide education for people with hemophilia and their families and manage factor concentrates for the two hemophilia treatment centres in Ghana. Boayke highlighted the importance of the IHTC fellowship program and how it has strengthened the GHS and boosted patient confidence.

Arijit Biswas, PhD, University of Bonn, witnessed an ISTH-facilitated collaboration between a hospital in New Delhi and the University of Bonn. Two ISTH Reach-the-World fellows spent 4 months in Germany, developing their molecular biology skills that they transferred to their hospital when they returned to New Delhi. Biswas acknowledges the impact the Program has had on molecular testing in New Delhi, adding that the ISTH Reach-the-World Program serves as a stepping stone to further collaborative programs.

Mitch Semienchuk, Editor, Hemophilia World Online, wishes to thank Georghia Michael. PhD, for her contributions to this article.