Carolina Wiesner Ceballos: National Cancer Institute Director and the Future of Cancer Care in Bogotá

2023-11-22 00:54:00

Carolina Wiesner Ceballos, Director of the National Cancer Institute

Photo: El Espectador – Jose Vargas Esguerra

90 years ago, the National Cancer Institute was born in the heart of Bogotá, on Carrera 10 and Calle Primera. It is part of the emblematic complex of the San Juan de Dios hospital and was recognized with the Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Award, by the Bogotá Improvement and Ornament Society, which since 1938 rewards those who work for the benefit of the capital.

90 years ago, the National Cancer Institute was born in the heart of Bogotá, on Carrera 10 and Calle Primera. It is part of the emblematic complex of the San Juan de Dios hospital and was recognized with the Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Award, by the Bogotá Improvement and Ornament Society, which since 1938 rewards those who work for the benefit of the capital.

The distinction was received by the doctor, surgeon and health professional Carolina Wiesner, the only woman who has directed the institution, which in its history has had 11 directors. She spoke with El Espectador about the panorama of this disease in the capital and what it has meant for the Institute to be part of San Juan de Dios.

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How do you receive this award?

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It is a great recognition by civil society of the contributions we have made to citizens, to Bogotá and to health, because we have been open to the care of cancer patients. At first this building was the National Radium Institute, which served people with the ability to pay. Then more patients began to arrive and the need to offer services to patients without the ability to pay was created. The Institute became part of the Ministry of Hygiene and since 1953 we have received public resources. They managed to name us a pavilion for the poor.

Is Bogotá prepared for cancer?

Because it is a complex disease, it requires multiple specialties such as surgeons, clinical oncologists and radiation therapists. 80% of the country’s oncologists have been trained here and we are prepared. There is enough supply. But the challenge in attention is fragmentation. Cancer needs all services under the same roof, so that the patient does not have to move, has everything nearby, easy and without so many procedures.

The Government will recover the San Juan de Dios, does the INC require the same attention?

The analyzes say that there will be more cancer every day. By 2030, the disease will grow by 30%, and that generates great demand in the health service and a great challenge. Although we have grown in capacity, our emergency service is always overcrowded. For this reason, before we dreamed of having access to the Maternal and Child hospital to expand oncological services, but we understand that there is a project. We even managed to be in San Juan de Dios, in the emergency room, before the pandemic, where we treated patients and it went well. We know and are part of these properties.

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Are there plans to work hand in hand with San Juan de Dios again?

No, because it is a project led by the president. The INC is also a nation, we had to look at how to participate in the project.

How to solve the San Juan mess?

This complex must be beautified and intense work must be done on the transformation of citizen culture. We could have a nicer area for patients, doctors and nurses, but it is an unsafe place. I think it is an important historical and cultural health space that requires intervention regarding infrastructure.

Faced with cancer, what is the outlook for Bogotá?

Bogotá has everything, the best doctors, hospitals and information, and mortality and the incidence of cervical cancer have been reduced, because women are sensible. However, with breast cancer we have not achieved mortality. In the city, in five years it was recorded that 15,600 men and 23,800 women are living with cancer. And every year 8,000 women and 6,300 men receive the diagnosis. These are the most recent data collected by the INC.

Is there attention deficit in the city?

No, I think Colombia has a sufficient supply of oncological services. What happens is that you have to have the system organized so that the diagnosis, anywhere, is quick and is sent to the treatment center, which will always be in the big cities. We have problems of fragmentation, of lack of opportunity, because the buildings are not organized. It depends a lot on the contracts that the insurers have.

For more news from the capital and Cundinamarca, visit the Bogotá section of El Espectador.

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