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Care and consideration for Cancer

Date Released: Thu, 7 April 2011 15:14 +0200

Kyle O’Hagan, an MSc Biochemistry student and member of the Biomedical Biotechnology Research Unit (BioBRU) at Rhodes has launched the Cancer Awareness Initiative at Rhodes (CAIR), which Mr O’Hagan says is aimed at facilitating in-depth research into the disease and providing support for those affected by it. 

“This was an idea that popped into my head while I was researching cancer awareness in South Africa. I was looking to see what support there is for people who have been affected by this disease and also where South Africa stands in terms of policies on the issue.

“I realised that there was nothing going on anywhere at other universities in the country, even though you’d expect there to be, especially at the bigger ones. That’s when I decided to start one up here at Rhodes,” he said.

Mr O’Hagan, who lost his grandfather to cancer years ago, said the dual approach of the initiative provides a holistic approach to the disease. “The only way we can really have an effect on cancer is through research. We want to raise awareness about the various types of cancer, some of which are not well known. But we also want to conduct research into it and give students the opportunity to make a difference by contributing to our organisation,” he said.

He said while the initiative is in the early stages of organisation, he has numerous ideas and plans for the upcoming months. “We have approached different individuals and groups on campus and the idea has been well received. There are lots of things in the pipeline,” he said.

Some of these ideas include coordinating cancer awareness activities with the health awareness calendar of the Department of Health, a possible weekly column in the Oppi Press to encourage cancer awareness and various fundraising initiatives. “We are hoping to combine community engagement and fundraising with a focus of donating all proceeds to cancer sufferers in Grahamstown. We are aiming to eventually be in a position to host a cancer awareness week here at Rhodes,” he said.

Although credited with the original concept, he said the project would not have gotten off the ground if he hadn’t received incredible support and input from his fellow BioBRU colleagues, Ms Tarryn Willmer, Ms Cindy Slater, Ms Buhle Moyo, Ms Joanne de la Mare and Dr Adrienne Edkins, Acting Director of BioBRU. “These people have made the whole thing possible and it would never be where it is today if it weren’t for them” he said.

Mr O’Hagan said being involved in cancer research through his involvement with BioBRU has equipped him to be able to tackle such a project. “I have the motivation to put myself out there and get involved in working with people who have a common goal and focus. I hope to follow in Dr Edkins’ footsteps and contribute meaningfully to this field of study. It’s a wonderful experience,” he added.

By Sarah-Jane Bradfield

Photo: Mr Kyle O’Hagan