Prof Elizabeth Molyneux

Professor Molyneux has worked in Malawi with her husband, a tropical medicine specialist, for over 20 years.

In 1995 she became Head of the Paediatric Department at the College of Medicine/ Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre successfully adapting her experience from Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital to a resource poor setting. Guided by her belief in doing simple things and doing them well, she set up an accident and emergency unit halving inpatient child mortality through simple emergency triage procedures and improved staff training. More recently she has been focusing on the problem of childhood cancer in Malawi.

Many of the most common childhood cancers in sub-Saharan Africa such as Burkitt lymphoma and Wilms’ tumour (kidney cancer) can be treated simply and cheaply with the appropriate drugs. However, Elizabeth found that many cancers were diagnosed very late because primary healthcare workers and parents have little knowledge of the early signs of the disease. In addition, many children who were diagnosed failed to complete the full course of treatment due to the practical and financial pressures on their parents of long hospital stays.

Through Professor Molyneux's international network she has established an advisory group including Professor Simon Bailey and Dr Rod Skinner from the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle in the UK, Dr Trijn Israels at VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam, in The Netherlands and Professor Peter Hesseling from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.  Locally appropriate treatment protocols have been developed for Burkitt lymphoma, retinoblastoma, Kaposi Sarcoma and Wilms' tumour with very promising results.  These protocols have focused on good outcomes but yet reducing the overall length and cost of treatment resulting in a shorter stay in hospital. Twinning relationships have been developed between the Blantyre oncology unit, the unit at the Royal Infirmary Newcastle (Malawi Children with Cancer) and VUMC Amsterdam and these partnerships along with funding for staff, drugs, awareness advertising campaigns and better support for families to reduce abandonment of treatment are in large funded by World Child Cancer.

Elizabeth and her husband were awarded OBE's in 2007 for their services to medicine.  She has now retired but continues to visit Malawi and takes an active role supporting the new paediatric oncologist at QECH, Dr George Chagaluka.