Transforming "Brain Drain" into "Brain Gain"

12 March 2009

The migration of highly skilled human resources is a growing problem in Lebanon. The Lebanese government and many policy-makers, concerned by this "brain drain" have been trying to attract the national expatriates back to their home country to participate in their nation building.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Lebanon worked on transforming this "brain drain" into a "brain gain" through the TOKTEN project (Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals). This project provides the Lebanese expatriates who achieved professional success abroad, the chance to work as volunteers in their homeland on short-term consultancies. By volunteering their services, they get involved in the development projects taking place with several Lebanese ministries.

Following the request of the Ministry of Public Health to develop cancer treatments, TOKTEN decided to invest in science in order to improve, regulate, monitor, and supervise oncology protocols that are covered by the Ministry of Public Health for patients with no other coverage. TOKTEN received a donation from a Lebanese Expatriate Mr. Mounzer Hourani to implement this subproject entitled "National Chemotherapy Protocols". This project aims to enhance cure rates for patients with cancer thereby ultimately improving access to quality health services to all the population mainly the most vulnerable groups.

"These drugs forming the protocols are already in the Lebanese market. However the approval of some expensive drugs by MOH necessitates regulation based on international recognized evidence- based protocols and cost effectiveness" said Dr. Nizar Bitar the coordinator of the oncology project with the Ministry of Health.

As a first and long awaited step in the implementation of this project, a ministerial decree was issued by the ministry of Public Health to form a "National Committee to set Chemotherapy Protocols".

According to this Ministerial decree, the scope of the committee is to define treatment protocols based on the list of drugs approved by the committee in the aim of rationalizing proper use of drugs within limited allocated budget, without jeopardizing the main goal which is the optimal standard care offered to the patient.

The National committee includes volunteer prominent oncologists from reputable oncology cancer centers in Lebanon, a representative of the Lebanese Society of Medical Oncology, the oncologist member of the drug committee in the ministry of Public Health, a coordinator with the Ministry of Health and the TOKTEN project manager. In addition, the committee will assign the development of particular protocols to a number of oncology specialists.

Once finalized these protocols will be reviewed by and discussed with a committee of prominent Lebanese Expatriate oncologist from renowned international cancer centers in particular MDACC resulting in national consensus on chemotherapy protocols for the ministry patients.

"This project is a need for the medical practice. It will be an example to be implemented in different fields and countries" said Dr. Bitar, stressing on the importance of the collaboration between all the parties and on the engagement of the government and the concerned colleagues to implement this project.

Together, the TOKTEN consultants contribute their experience to their country's progress not only in the field of health but also by accomplishing many missions in various fields ranging from industry, economy, technology, tourism and environment.