Myanmar, Jan/Feb 2019.

Rad51 Society Meeting. Myanmar, 21/1/2019 – notes by Sid Arnott

(some pictures of this fabulous occasion can be found here)

In January 2019, 12 members of the Society, together with partners and guests, a total of 26, made the visit to Myanmar, hosted by Sunny.

One of the main purposes of the visit was that we should take part in a joint scientific meeting with the Oncology unit, based at Yangon General Hospital.  At that meeting five of our members gave presentations and we had contributions from four of the staff of Yangon Hospital. As we have now come to expect from our UK meetings, the standard of presentations by our colleagues was of the highest order.  It was also very useful from the UK side to learn of the working practices and the difficulties of providing cancer services in Myanmar.  Interestingly many of the problems mentioned by the Yangon doctors were very similar to those which we experience in the UK, but of a different order of magnitude.

One of the most important aspects of the meeting, to those of us from the UK, was the gratitude shown by the local doctors, indicating how much they had benefited, by not only listening to the wonderful presentations given by our team, but also the insight they gained from discussing patient management and learning of our difficulties, so they did not feel so alone.  A striking feature that was evident, when seeing patients in the clinics, was how advanced some of the tumours were in those patients seeking treatment.  It was reminiscent of the 60’s in the UK and something that we rarely see on such a scale today.

Later, during our stay in Yangon we made a memorable visit to the Allied War Cemetery,  where the graves of over 6000 allied soldiers are situated.    It was poignant to see the graves of so many young people who died in the Burma campaign.  The graves and gardens were beautifully maintained, a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives liberating the country. 

A further visit, which made a tremendous impression on all of us, was to an orphanage/school, based near Yangon.  The dedication of the teachers was humbling and many of us felt the wish to make a donation to promote their work.

After Yangon we moved on to Mandalay, where I (Sid) had a significant birthday.  I personally am extremely grateful to all those present, for making the evening so memorable and so enjoyable.

(Webmaster’s note: a tribute to Sid, whose term as Secretary has now been completed, can be found here ; many of us feel that if it had not been for Sid and Diana the Society would have collapsed whereas now, thanks to them, it is in robust health)

We then moved on to Bagan, sailing up the Irawaddy River.   A memorable day.  Bagan is a fascinating place, which once was the capital of Burma and where there are approximately 3000 Stupas (temples) scattered around the countryside.  Some of our group were brave enough to take a balloon trip to see the temples more clearly.

Our next stop was Inle Lake, a vast lake in the centre of Myanmar.  There we had the opportunity to see the local fishermen at work and visit the houses and villages of the local water people.  A step back in time.  It was incredible to see the life style of these people, whose houses and workplaces were all built on stilts over the water.  Truly memorable.

Our final stop was at Ngapoli on the west coast.  An idyllic stop for those in the group to relax and consider the visit that we had made. Interestingly, while we were there, we had an opportunity to speak to Norwegian members of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, also staying at the hotel.   It was enlightening to hear their views about the current problems in some parts of Myanmar.    The take home message from our visit is that the situation in Myanmar is extremely complex.  There have been numerous conflicts in the country over many years amongst the various tribal factions there.  This aspect of the situation has not always been accurately presented by the media.

Finally, a further take home message, was the gratitude shown by the staff of all the hotels in which we stayed, who pointed out how grateful they were that we had visited the country, as this provided them with employment.  It was regularly mentioned by the locals how much they appreciated being able to speak to us and learning of life outside Myanmar.

We are all most grateful to Sunny and Cecilia for providing us with such an amazing opportunity to visit such a beautiful country.  

5 CPD credits have been awarded for this meeting.

Members Attending:

Sid Arnott,  Eric Bessell,  David Cole,  Indy Fernando,  Jean- Pierre Gerard,  John Glaholm,  John Glees, Jonathan Nicoll,  Mary Quigley,  Sunny,  Mike Sokal,  Diana Tait (12)

Apologies:

Thelma Bates,  Tony Branson,  Roger Buchanan,  Audrey Champion, Sian Davies, James Gildersleve,  Clive Irwin,  Charles Lowdell, Craig Macmillan, Jane Maher, Natasha Mithal, Dave Morgan, Michael Moriarty,  Alan Rodger, Margaret Spittle, Wendy Taylor. (15)