Pioneers celebrated at Wales’ first cancer awards

Moondance Cancer Initiative has recognised individuals and teams across Wales for their outstanding achievements in cancer services at Wales’ first cancer awards.

A special accolade was given to Dr Heather Wilkes for her outstanding contribution in bringing Wales’ first Rapid Diagnosis Centre to Swansea Bay. She was among four individuals and 10 teams awarded accolades across 12 different categories for their brave work and dedication towards improving cancer services in Wales.

The Moondance Cancer Awards aim to celebrate and spotlight people across NHS Wales and its partners who have maintained and innovated cancer services despite the extraordinary circumstances of the last two years.

Winners include teams from Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (CAVUHB), Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB), Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTMUHB), Velindre Cancer Centre, Cancer Research Wales, and Tenovus Cancer Care, alongside others.

Their winning projects included the South Wales lung cancer collaboration, a joint service model for thoracic surgery; the introduction of transnasal endoscopy, using scopes developed by Olympus Medical to test for oesophageal and gastric cancers via the nose instead of the traditional method through the mouth; and the SYMPLIFY research study, a multi-cancer early detection test.

Joining Dr Heather Wilkes’ outstanding award, three other individuals were celebrated as emerging leaders for cancer services in Wales: Dr Rachel Gemine for the Management and Administration award, Jackie Pottle for the Non-medical and Nursing award and Dr Hasan Haboubi for the Medical award.

Discussing the Outstanding Achievement Award, Martin Bevan, Secondary Care clinical lead for the RDC, Swansea Bay University Health Board said: “Heather is the pioneer of Rapid Diagnostic Centre services in Wales, if it hadn’t been for her work, the first RDC would not have been set up locally in Swansea, and hence there wouldn’t have been a roll-out throughout the Wales for the further establishment of RDCs. We need determination and drive to successfully deliver the full benefits of a project like the RDCs, and that’s the value of characters like Heather. She’s a very deserving winner.”

Dr Heather Wilkes said: “I’m absolutely overwhelmed to be awarded this accolade, it’s wonderful, and I’m blown away by the support and the recognition we’ve received. We set up the first RDC in Neath Port Talbot, and it was such a success it was too good not to share and push across the rest of Wales, which is the whole purpose of innovation, to share the benefit of a successful project. I feel honoured to be recognised for starting something, but above all to have been given the opportunity to help other people realise the benefits of this model, to help support them to do the same, and to have been a part of such a fantastic team with the RDCs.”

This year’s winners were selected by a judging panel of experts and leaders within health care including: Professor Tom Crosby, Cancer Clinical Director for Wales; Professor Lord Darzi, Director of the Institute for Global Health Innovation, Imperial College; Claire Birchall, Director of Wales Cancer Network and Professor Jared Torkington, Clinical Director for Moondance Cancer Initiative.

Moondance Cancer Initiative exists to find, fund and fuel brilliant people and brave ideas to make Wales a world leader in cancer survival. There are currently 18 active projects being funded by the Initiative across Wales including the expansion of the Rapid Diagnosis Centre in Swansea Bay and the introduction of Transnasal endoscopy.

Commenting on the Moondance Cancer Awards, Dr Megan Mathias, Chief Executive of Moondance Cancer Initiative said: “The awards were created to both celebrate and thank the people who have dedicated their time to improving and pioneering detection, diagnosis and treatment pathways across cancer services in Wales. We hope that by shining a spotlight on these people, we can help inspire tomorrow’s solutions for survival. We’re so pleased that so many people from across health care in Wales came to celebrate with us.

“These awards really showcase that improvement is both possible and is happening across Wales’ cancer services. At Moondance, we find, fund and fuel brilliant people with brave ideas to improve cancer outcomes for Wales. If you, or your team, is interested in discussing an idea, please get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you.”

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