A group of faculty gathered in a pathology working room on the second floor of the Medical School at 8:30 a.m. one Friday morning might have seemed no different from any other specialty assembled to discuss clinical cases.

But at this Division of Oncology tumor board, the patients and their physicians were from Panama. And the presentation of cases was being transmitted in real-time via the Internet and telephone nearly 2,000 miles between Houston and Panama.

“That our Medical School and the National Oncology Institute of Panama can share this level of medical expertise opens a new phase in the longstanding history of relations in science and technology between Panama and the United States,” says Dr. Adan Rios, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine, who headed up the project and is from Panama.

I believe this exchange of knowledge will be of benefit to both of our countries.

Rios plans that this global collaboration, which included two patient cases in its initial presentation, will include up to four in the future and will occur from now on as part of the regular schedule of activities of the Division of Oncology.

Robert Amato, M.D., professor of internal medicine and director of the Division of Oncology, has spearheaded together with Rios a program of international activities, starting with Panama, and which have started to gather the attention of other Central American countries.

Amato provided expert advice to the Panamanian physicians regarding treatment options for the difficult oncology cases. “Even though there are fewer drug options in Panama, there are some alternative therapies that could help improve these patients’ outcomes,” Dr. Amato says. “These tumors are very large—a pattern of presentation often seen in developing countries.”

About a dozen Medical School faculty and residents convened on the Medical School side, and the Panama side reported 15 physicians in attendance. The presentations from the Panamanian physicians were in English and included the patients’ medical histories, and images of the pathology slides displayed on a large computer monitor.

“I believe this exchange of knowledge will be of benefit to both of our countries. After all, this is a medical school for the people of Texas, and the National Oncology Institute in Panama is a place for the people of Panama,” Dr. Rios says.

— Darla Brown, Office of Communications