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Cancer Council Victoria farewells a national treasure

Friday 29 January, 2010

On 31 January 2010, Doreen Akkerman AM, Cancer Council Victoria's (CCV) Director of Cancer Information and Support Services (CISS), retired after 20 years of dedicated service.

"Many Victorians with cancer and their friends and families, and members of the cancer community-here in Australia and throughout the world-will sorely miss Doreen's passion and commitment to help those affected by cancer," said Professor David Hill, Director CCV.

As a highly valued member of CCV, Doreen is recognised locally, nationally and internationally for her compassion, integrity and strategic approach to support people affected by cancer, including their family and friends."

While Doreen has personally counselled and supported thousands of Victorians in the past 20 years, her team has also responded to more than 750,000 requests for cancer support.

"I know the enormous difference that the Cancer Information and Support Service makes to people affected by cancer and I have seen it vastly grow over the 20 years," said Doreen.

"Our team supports people at all stages of the cancer experience. We walk a little way with people through their cancer journey, provide up-to-date credible information and link people to services to help them adjust to life with cancer."

Doreen was a favourite of talk shows-both from a host and caller perspective-appearing on programs such as 3AW's Talking Health program hosted by Dr Sally Cockburn and 3LO's afternoon program hosted by Richard Stubbs.

Dr Amanda Hordern, PhD has been appointed as the new Director of CISS from 1 February 2010. Amanda was previously the Deputy Director of CISS, and brings more than 20 years of national and international experience across oncology and palliative care. Amanda's strategic vision for CISS is "to build and strengthen active partnerships with cancer clinicians and treatment centres, and increase awareness of CISS among the cancer community and residents of Victoria."

"I am thrilled to be handing over the Directorship to Dr Amanda Hordern who also has the commitment, energy and strategic vision to continue providing the best support service to Victorians affected by cancer and to take the service into a new era," said Doreen.

I would also like to acknowledge the volunteers who give so much time to help others affected by cancer. The CISS team's commitment to providing a high-quality support service has made a huge difference to the community and it has been a huge honour for me to have worked with such tremendous, dedicated people."

"We will sorely miss Doreen and wish her well in her future endeavours, and look forward to Amanda continuing the high standard of patient/carer focus and support set by her predecessor," said Prof Hill.

CISS stats

  • In 2009, CISS supported more than 62,000 people affected by cancer
  • More than 291,000 sources of information were distributed.
  • More than $244, 000 was provided to cancer patients in need of financial assistance.
  • 951 callers to the Cancer Council Helpline were linked to a Cancer Connect volunteer who had been through a similar experience.
  • Approximately 4,824 callers were provided with information about Cancer Support Groups.

Doreen's history and achievements at CCV

Doreen started at CCV in 1990 with a team of two part-time cancer nurses and two full-time enquiries officers in 1990. From there she has nurtured CISS into one of the world's leading cancer support services. Doreen's achievements over 20 years are numerous and include:

  • Executive supervisor in the development of the first Breast Cancer Nurse Distance Learning Program delivered at Latrobe University. Around 900 nurses have successfully completed the unit of study since 1997.
  • Establishment of the first series of Sexuality and Cancer Workshops for patients and health professionals to help the 40 per cent or more of cancer patients who experience sexual dysfunction after treatment.
  • Expansion of the breast cancer peer support program to become a program that supports people with all types of cancer as well as survivors, family members and people who carry the cancer susceptibility gene.
  • Around 5500 people affected by cancer have been linked to trained volunteers through our Cancer Connect program since 1990.
  • Cultivation of a strong partnership between the Think Pink Foundation and Cancer Council Victoria, which has delivered more than $2.5 million to more than 11,000 cancer patients and their families through the Financial Assistance Program.
  • Establishment of the first communication skills training program for cancer clinicians in Australia in 2004, which has enabled around 1280 clinicians to receive training to help them discuss challenging topics effectively with patients.
  • Author of many published articles on cancer information services, communication and sexuality issues in journals including the European Journal of Cancer Care and the Journal of Cancer Education.
  • Helen Macpherson Smith Trust Fellow and founding President and now Board Member of the International Cancer Information Services Group. Members share information and expertise and assist new groups interested in setting up a cancer information service program.
  • Doreen's organisational model, which is considered gold standard by the International Cancer Information Services Group, has been adopted by over 51 hospitals and organisations throughout the world. Doreen was especially proud when the Canadian National Cancer Information Service and the Singapore National Cancer Centre adopted our CIS model.

More about Dr Amanda Hordern and CISS

Amanda has been providing strategic direction to CISS staff including cancer nurses, program managers and an administrative team as Deputy Director of CISS since 2008. Her energy and commitment to cancer care have led to many achievements including:

  • establishing a cancer survivor focus across all CISS programs
  • expert advisor on supportive care committees across Victorian cancer agencies and centres, including Victorian Cancer Survivorship Program Steering Committee and Parkville Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • playing an instrumental role in establishing a Cancer Helpline for the Singapore National Cancer Centre in 1999
  • completing a PhD focused on communicating about sexuality and intimacy in the cancer and palliative care setting
    author of published articles in international, peer reviewed journals, and
  • developing the first Breast Cancer Nurse Distance Learning Program delivered at Latrobe University. Over 900 nurses have successfully completed the unit of study since 1997, which now provides an academic pathway for nurses to complete a masters level education.

Amanda will have overall responsibility for a wide range of cancer support programs including:

  • the Cancer Council Helpline (13 11 20)
  • Multilingual Cancer Information Line
  • Cancer Connect
  • Cancer Support Groups
  • Cancer Support Group Forums
  • Online Support Forums
  • Cancer Survivors
  • When Cancer Won't Go Away
  • Carers
  • Cancer Support Publications
  • Financial Assistance, and the
  • Holiday Break Program.

Amanda will also direct health profession education programs including the Victorian Cancer Clinicians Communication Program, Breast Care Nurse Distance Learning Program and the Living With Cancer Education Program.

See our cancer support services pages for more on the services available.