This profile was prepared when Marcela Zubieta was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Building upon her own experiences during her young daughter's failed struggle against cancer, Marcela Zubieta is introducing in her native Chile a system of dealing with child cancer that challenges the traditional practice of allowing economic conditions–be they those of the hospital or those of the patient–to limit the availability and the quality of diagnosis and treatment. By mobilizing additional resources from public and private institutions for such activities as purchasing new equipment and building a home for patients and their families who come to Santiago from outlying areas, she is complementing and improving the existing services available to those in need of medical attention. At the same time she is educating and involving a wider spectrum of society about the plight of cancer patients through media and fundraising campaigns and a growing volunteer program. Moreover, noting the rise of cancer as a leading cause of child mortality in Chile, Marcela is demonstrating that as a country's health panorama changes, so must the attending institutions. Because child cancer in many cases can be treated if diagnosed in its earlier stages, Marcela is urging the Chilean medical establishment to improve its diagnosis capacity and is undertaking plans to create a national diagnostic center aimed at drawing in patients from poor communities. Similarly, because she recognizes that infection is one of the greatest threats to cancer patients, she is working to create separate waiting rooms and treatment facilities for cancer patients.