Kosovo – Breast Cancer Awareness & Diagnostics Project  

A Partnership between Moffitt Cancer Center, the Balkans Breast Cancer Initiative, and the International Council 


Figure 1 The first "Breast Cancer Awareness" postage stamp in the Balkan region, issued in Kosovo in October 2008. Design by Balazs I. Bodai, M.D. Director, Breast Surgical Services, Kaiser Permanente


In October 2008, the International Council of the Tampa Bay Region created a program for 28 international visitors – physicians, health care professionals, non-profit leaders – who came to Tampa Bay on a worldwide US Department of State initiative to build capacity for breast cancer awareness and treatment. This program was initiated by then-First Lady Laura Bush. The project was managed under State’s “International Visitor Leadership Program. 


Figure 2 IVLP worldwide delegation is introduced from the stage at the Susan G. Komen "3-Day for the Cure" in St. Petersburg, October 2008 


In addition to participating in the Susan G. Komen Foundation's "Three-Day for the Cure" awareness-raising walkathon, the International Council organized professional meetings for the group with Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa), the Susan G. McGillicuddy Breast Center at St. Anthony's Hospital (St. Petersburg), and a breast cancer awareness training seminar led by the Komen Foundation. St. Anthony’s Hospital sponsored the seminar breakfast at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. A dinner in honor of the visiting delegation was hosted by Transitions Optical Chairman Richard Elias, a Trustee of the International Council and attended by over 100 Tampa Bay “citizen diplomats”. International Council Chair James MacDougald also hosted an opening "American Cookout" reception for the group. 


Figure 3 Participants in the Susan G. Komen "3-Day For The Cure" get ready to walk for breast cancer awareness in Pinellas County.

Outcomes: Path-breaking Collaboration between Kosovo and Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa). Dr. Elvis Ahmedi, a thoracic surgeon from Kosovo and leader of the Balkans Breast Cancer Initiative (BBCI - originally created through the efforts of the US Embassy Pristina), talked at length with the International Council about building a collaborative professional relationship in the Tampa Bay Region for him and his fellow physicians. The International Council partnered with the Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa), which offered to work directly with cancer surgeons and related healthcare specialists in Kosovo. This exchange of information and peer review, which began in October 2009 focused exclusively on breast cancer, has since been expanded to include other types of cancer common to Kosovo.




Figure 4 Surgeons at the Telemedicine Centre of Kosova participating in a conference call and Webcast with Moffitt Cancer Center, March 25, 2010. Photo courtesy of Dr. Elvis Ahmedi.

Second Awareness Walk in Kosovo: On Saturday, October 24, 2009 in Mitrovica, The Balkans Breast Cancer Initiative (BBCI) and the Community Building Mitrovica (CBM), held the second Kosovo Annual Walk to raise awareness about breast cancer. The walk was sponsored by Office of the Prime Minister for Gender Equality. 



Figure 5 Hundreds of participants in the city of Mitrovica gather to begin the second annual breast cancer awareness walk in Kosovo on October 24, 2009. Photo courtesy of Dr. Elvis Ahmedi.  

BBCI was initiated by the American Embassy in Pristina and has obtained the support of USAID, well known Kosovan doctors (including Dr. Elvis Ahmedi, speaking below), and Kosovan NGOs. CBM is an NGO that works in South (Albanian) and North (Serbs) Mitrovica to improve community relationship between divided ethnic groups.  



The “divided city” of Mitrovica was chosen for second annual walk to demonstrate that breast cancer knows no cultural, ethnic or religious boundaries. Hundreds of people attended the Walk. 


Figure 6 In Albanian and Serbian, the official T-shirt reads "Early Detection = Survival", and includes the BBCI and Kosovan Prime Minister's office logos. 








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