Dr Zainab Kidwai is a PhD researcher at the Department of Health Sciences, University of York, UK. She studied dentistry in India and worked with rural populations which brought to her attention the plight of people with various oral health problems. This sparked her interest in research and finding community-level solutions to major oral diseases and led to her pursuing a Masters in Dental Public Health from the University of Dundee. Having first-hand experienced the morbidity and mortality caused by oral cancers in her patients and the effect of risk factors like chewing tobacco and smoking on disease progression, she set out to find potential solutions to tackle this problem through her PhD research. She is currently working on developing low-cost oral cancer screening solutions and finding ways to increase the accessibility and availability of these services. To create awareness and join forces in this area, she has co-convened the Balance Cancer Network, a borderless alliance of early career researchers passionate about tackling Head and Neck cancers around the globe.
I want to help reduce the burden of oral cancers in our society which is a major public health concern, particularly in the developing parts of the world and is estimated to affect more than half a million people by 2030. I want this because it is a highly preventable disease and with early intervention and timely management, many lives can be saved. I can do this because I have worked with experts to develop a cost-effective toolkit designed for training lay health workers for community-based oral cancer screening and have tested it out in two countries. By educating and empowering the health workforce, we can reach the most vulnerable and marginalized communities, help them take charge of their healthcare needs and make cancer prevention a possibility.