The IAEA has inaugurated a new gamma camera laboratory that will be used to train medical personnel from developing countries. The launch of the state-of-the-art facility located at the IAEA´s Laboratories in Seibersdorf is part of the Agency´s on-going effort of transferring life-saving technologies to developing countries through its technical cooperation programme.
The gamma camera equipment was donated by the Hungarian company Mediso to the IAEA under a so-called "Public Private Partnership". Gamma cameras are imaging devices used for diagnosis in nuclear medicine. They are routinely utilised in the medical fields of oncology, cardiology, neurology, orthopaedics and pharmacology research.
These cameras are expensive, highly complex and sensitive devices, and not always available for medical practitioners in developing countries, particularly for training and hands-on experience with the technology.
During the inauguration ceremony, Werner Burkart, Deputy Director General for the IAEA Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, highlighted the importance of training personnel in countries which receive IAEA technical assistance.
"The reason why we have the gamma camera laboratory here is that we have taken a holistic approach to transferring technology," Dr. Burkart said. "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. We are not just sending a machine with a manual: we want to make sure that the specialists really understand this technology."
This in-depth training is essential to securing service quality-assurance in the countries where Gamma Cameras are deployed. "Typically, medical personnel would come here for a one-month course, get a full understanding of the strengths of this technology and, maybe as important, its limitations and weaknesses," commented Dr. Burkart. "We take many things for granted, but the task of running a gamma camera in a developing country is hard. 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 facility is expected to serve as a training centre for a large number of doctors and specialised personnel from developing countries. "The number of doctors and technicians trained in this facility will very much depend on the needs of Member States, but we anticipate hundreds of people getting training in this laboratory and then applying at home what they have learnt here," he said.
He also stressed how this project represents a successful example of a "IAEA´s one-house approach", i.e. a joint effort from different departments of the Agency. In 2004, the IAEA launched its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), which was established to address the developing world´s growing cancer crisis. In addition, the IAEA donated the monetary award that came with the Nobel Peace Prize to a project aimed at training cancer therapy specialists in developing countries.