Dr Erica Whineray Kelly
Whatever it costs to make a difference.
When a dying patient’s last request is for you to try harder, you’re going to honour it. No matter how long the hours, or how much it costs. You’ll try harder.
For Doctor Erica Whineray Kelly, this was a plea from a patient named Caroline, urging her to try harder to save women struggling with breast cancer in New Zealand. They're words she’ll never forget. They inspired this Auckland-based breast surgeon to set up the country’s first Zeiss Intrabeam radiotherapy unit, a revolutionary post-operative breast cancer treatment option known as IORT.
So far the journey has been a tough one. But because she knows the potential of the IORT system it’s been worth every sleepless night. It can do more than change lives in New Zealand. It has the potential to save them.
The system works by delivering precision radiation directly into the tumour bed after surgery. More healthy tissue is preserved, while even microscopic elements of the disease are destroyed. So what might have been a gruelling three to five-week course of radiotherapy can be reduced to a single treatment, with a single dose. It's ground breaking.
And the flow-on effect is something Erica is acutely aware of too. IORT can make radiotherapy feasible for more women who, due to the physical, financial and emotional toll of traditional radiotherapy, might have only had mastectomy as an option.
It all feeds into her plan. While currently she’s only been able to make IORT available privately, she’s working hard to introduce it to the public healthcare system. But a change of that magnitude takes time.
Working with BNZ Partners’ Healthcare specialists was the right decision for Erica. The chasm between money and medicine can be a vast one, so having expert resource available to help navigate the financial side of her journey proved crucial.
In fact, because her BNZ Partner has a medical background also, he understood the unique emotional and time pressures Erica was under, as well as the cost to her personally. Breaking new ground within the healthcare industry is never going to be easy.
It's a long road. But fighting for change, and a better future for women in New Zealand is a destination she never loses sight of. And she'll never forget the inspiration behind it. The dedication plaque on the IORT reads, “For Caroline”.