Meeting ICON’s new network manager

Chris Salmon joined the ICON team in January as the new network manager. He explains what the position entails and why he is excited about getting on board with the Independent Clinical Oncology Network (ICON).

Q: What does being a network manager entail?

A: This is a new position at ICON and has been created because ICON has grown so much over the past few years. Interacting properly and productively with network members as well as stakeholders has become a priority so it was decided to create a position dedicated to maintaining and developing these relationships.

Q: What is your background professionally?

A: I studied physiotherapy but had to leave the profession due to an injury and being unable to work as intensively with patients as before. I was interested in exploring a business angle, which led to my doing an MBA at the University of Stellenbosch. I then worked at a few places, including my last position managing an oncology practice in Port Elizabeth.

Q: How did you end up working in oncology?

A: I wanted to stay in the medical profession as I already had some knowledge and background in the field. Since I couldn’t do clinical work, I thought the next best thing would be helping the people who were helping patients, which turned out to be in administration.

Q: What is it like working in oncology?

A: Oncology is a very emotional field. While we see many success stories, there are also, inevitably, many cases that involve loss and pain. It takes a very special sort of medical practitioner to work with these patients, forming bonds with terminally ill people who will pass away. In this way, oncology is almost unique as in most other medical professions, patients get better and go on living healthy, happy lives, but this is often not the case with oncology.

Q: What would you describe as the challenges facing oncology?

A: There is an enormous need for affordable and effective cancer treatment worldwide. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the incidence of cancer is increasing globally and will double by 2030. This is a growing burden of disease and there is so much pressure on the medical field to help those who need it. In South Africa, there is an enormous need for better healthcare for the majority of the population, yet so many drugs and treatments are expensive and out of reach for most.

Q: Why did you decide to join ICON?

A: I really like and respect the network for what it is trying to do; to make cancer care more affordable and therefore accessible to more people. The network has grown tremendously, but there is still room to expand and improve on services for patients. I would like to be a part of growing the ICON network.

Q: What do you think your biggest challenge will be?

A: I expect it will be managing expectations and trying to align the objectives of patients, providers and medical schemes. Each of these have different models and want different things from a network like ICON. It is very exciting, however, and I’m looking forward to all of it.

Q: How about a few personal details?

A: I am 37 years old, married, and the father of a two-year-old as well as an eight-week-old baby. Although we were very happy in PE, we wanted to come to Cape Town as most of our family is here, which helps when you have two small children!