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UN atomic agency provides training in live-saving medical technologies

UN atomic agency provides training in live-saving medical technologies

Werner Burkart inaugurates gamma camera lab
The United Nations nuclear watchdog agency has launched a new laboratory in Austria to train medical professionals from developing countries to use high-tech technologies to save lives.

The Hungarian company Mediso donated gamma camera equipment – used in oncology, cardiology, neurology and orthopaedics, as well as in pharmacology research – to the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Not only are the cameras extremely expensive, but they are also very complex and sensitive.

“This state-of-the-art equipment will be used to give specialists from recipient countries the quality assurance they need to run this technology effectively,” said IAEA Deputy Director General for the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications Werner Burkart. “We are not just sending a machine with a manual: we want to make sure that the specialists really understand this technology.”

Dr. Burkart anticipates hundreds of doctors and specialized personnel being taught how to use the equipment in month-long sessions at the IAEA facility in Seibersdorf, and he hopes that they will be able to apply what they learn during the training in their home countries.

“We take many things for granted, but the task of running a gamma camera in a developing country is hard,” he noted. “Often these machines are used for tens of years in a dusty, sandy and hot environment where people do not have a service company to call up. That’s a considerable task.”

The IAEA has a history of involvement in projects to curb the spread of cancer. In 2004, the agency launched the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy to address the developing world’s soaring cancer rates. More recently, the IAEA has put the monetary reward it received upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 towards training cancer therapy specialists in poor nations.