Internationally renowned cancer nurse leader and researcher Professor Raymond Chan is on a fearless mission to change the lives of cancer survivors around the world.
It’s a lofty ambition for the inaugural Director of Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute (CFI), whose work is focused on extending and improving the quality of life for survivors of cancer, a disease that will directly affect one in two Australians by the age of 85.
While Prof Chan’s work is not about curing cancer or discovering new lifesaving treatments, his work impacts people by extending quantity of life and improving quality-of-life post treatment.
Prof Chan’s drive to improve care runs parallel to the vision of the Flinders CFI, which is to reimagine care and self-care, why it matters and how it can lead to greater wellbeing, lower morbidity, lower mortality, and lower health care costs.
Joining the Flinders CFI in August 2021 from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Prof Chan brought with him two NHMRC research grants and one MRFF grant, totalling $4.5 million, that will go towards projects that improve quantity and quality of life for cancer survivors.
These grants are aimed at developing and implementing a model of care to allow general practitioners (GPs) and other primary care providers (practice nurses and allied health professionals) to play a greater part in caring for cancer survivors.
Prof Chan says while cancer incidence rates are on the rise, so are rates of cancer survival, and with that comes an increased risk of long-term health issues and a range of chronic and comorbid conditions.
“The cancer system is close to tipping over,” he says. “There is no more space for us to see more cancer patients in a cancer centre. That’s one significant issue.”
“The second issue is the oncologists are trained to look after your cancer. It is not their expertise to look after your hypertension, your diabetes, your anxiety, your social circumstances and all those sorts of things.”
A shared follow-up care model between specialists and GPs is expected to provide cancer survivors with holistic, person-centred care.
Photo by Getty Images.
Prof Chan and his team of 12 researchers are now rolling out a shared care model for breast and prostate cancer survivors in various states across the country.
Shared follow-up care between a cancer patient’s specialist and their GP is expected to increase efficiency and quality of care as well as provide greater cost effectiveness for the health system.
Originally from Queensland, Prof Chan came to Flinders from the QUT’s School of Nursing where he held a joint position as Chair in Cancer Nursing at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Five researchers from his team will also make the move to South Australia.
Prof Chan says his move to the CFI, Australia’s first research institute dedicated to self-care and caring solutions, was driven by a desire to make a real and lasting impact to how we care for others and ourselves.
“If people ask me why I stay in academia or why I came to join the CFI, my first answer to them is that I want to have a higher level of impact. That’s what gets me out of the bed in the morning,” he says.
“I want to be in an organisation that is ambitious, fights for equity, has an optimal state it’s heading towards and is brave about it.
“There is an opportunity for us to fight for resources in health and care, fight for improvement and fight for attention for people to come and join our agenda.”
Throughout his 15-year research career, Prof Chan has published more than 160 peer-reviewed articles and two book chapters as well as attract over $24.6 million in research funding as a Chief Investigator.
Born in Hong Kong, he came to Australia at the age of 17 to study nursing. His inspiration for choosing nursing was a rather frivolous one.
With more seriousness he explains his passion to pursue a career in care was realised when he started working in aged care facilities as a student nurse.
The experience was not what he expected as he became aware of the suboptimal care being provided to distressed patients in a system constantly under pressure.
“I witnessed all of that, but because of it I was really determined to make a difference,” Prof Chan says.
“After graduating I worked as an oncology nurse and then in palliative care where I could see through the lens of patient-centred care and what it should look like.
“Rather than just keeping people alive, my time in palliative care taught me the importance of quality of life. So, I stayed in nursing and eventually went into research.”
Prof Chan takes the CFI reigns from Foundational Director Professor Alison Kitson, who is also the Vice Present and Executive Dean of Flinders University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
Prof Kitson describes her colleague as a “transformational leader who will set the path towards excellence in all we do in CFI”.
Launched two years ago, the CFI has since garnered the support of more than 220 members who have been awarded over $10 million in funding revenue in 2021 alone for research activity through to 2025 in some cases.
Prof Chan’s work joins a suite of research initiative under way in health and care at Flinders University.
There are several areas of strengths within the CFI where researchers receive significant NHMRC/MRFF funding, as well as large government contracts.
Many CFI researchers hold recognised expertise in aged care, some of them presenting as expert witnesses at the Royal Commission into aged care providing commentary and advice on how we must deliver care.
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