Pharmacy student raises awareness of breast cancer in her hometown
Noticing an increasing number of cancer cases in the area she is from, Alisar Serhan takes action by organizing a talk in collaboration with the municipality.
“The area I live in — Koura — has an alarmingly high incidence of cancer,” says LAU fifth-year pharmacy student Alisar Serhan. “So, I thought it would be a good idea to raise awareness of breast cancer in my hometown.” And she did just that by holding a talk on breast cancer earlier this month in the town of Bterram, in collaboration with LAU Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice Aline Saad, who also is originally from a village close by.
“I applaud Alisar’s initiative,” says Saad proudly. “She directly applied recently acquired knowledge from a pharmacotherapeutics course as part of her pharmacy curriculum at LAU to her own community. Such service learning is an excellent method of retaining information and giving back to your community at the same time.”
Alisar reached out to the local municipality, which was quick to send out text messages to female residents encouraging them to attend the event. The result was a presentation attended by a large and enthusiastic audience. “It was a great event, the attendance was exceptional, especially for a village of Bterram’s size,” says the village’s mayor Hayssam Serhan.
Participants got to learn more about cancer in general, how breast cancer specifically develops, what the risk factors are, screening and the importance of early detection and finally, prevention.
The speakers included resident Dr. Henriette Serhan and third-year medical student Nicolas Saoud — both from the University of Balamand — as well as Alisar and Aline Saad. All four stressed on the importance of screening and self-examination, and provided a demonstration of how a self-breast exam should be carried out. The talk concluded with a video focusing on the experience and emotions of a Lebanese woman who has survived breast cancer, “the point was to show that cancer is not a death sentence, as we all believe in this society,” shares Alisar.
For Saad, apart from the awareness raised, the importance of the event lies in that it was both “an interuniversity and an interprofessional one — in the sense that the community had the input of healthcare providers from different fields, enhancing the experience.”
The intense Q&A session that followed the talk showed great engagement from the audience. “They asked very advanced questions,” says Alisar, “about screening techniques, why breast cancer is happening at younger ages, and treatment methods, which is my area of expertise as a future pharmacist.”
The level of the talk’s sophistication impressed even audience members with a scientific background: “There are things even I didn’t know, as a biology major,” says Bterram resident Rima Serhan. For her part, member of the town council Ghada Salem noted that “before, every member of the audience had bits and pieces of the facts about breast cancer, and now they certainly have a wider range of information.”
The success of the event triggered a lively conversation about the need for similar presentations on various medical topics relevant to the people of Koura. Bterram’s mayor would be glad to see greater collaboration with the university in this regard: “Hopefully, we will be able to have several other talks about health topics that are very commonly seen in Lebanon, especially the Northern region, including blood pressure, and diabetes.”