Women, power and cancer:

A Lancet Commission

Commissioner of the Month for April 2024

Verna Vanderpuye

Commissioner name

Verna Vanderpuye MB ChB GFCP FASCO

Job Title

Clinical Oncologist, National Center for Radiotherapy Oncology and Nuclear Medicine, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana

What is your role on the Lancet Commission for Women, Power, and Cancer?


What drew you to join the Commission?

I have always been drawn to collective decision-making in regard to gender roles in clinical care because I believe I have a unique approach to encouraging both female colleagues and patients. I also demand recognition of women at all levels. As a young medical  student in Ghana with very few female colleagues, I realized I had to work extra hard, which meant a lot of sacrifices including social roles in a patriarchal society like mine. In addition, I was raised by a single mother who worked hard to always provide for me. My mother’s effort inspired me to achieve the best in my career and settle for nothing less. I met like-minded colleagues who spearheaded the concept for this Commission and it seemed natural to unite to examine the impact of cancer on women across the cancer landscape. It has been a wonderful journey and worth every sleepless night spent trying to make the work of this Commission relevant and evidence-based.

Why are you passionate about your work on the Commission?

I feel like it is my mandate to highlight the often unseen and challenging journeys of women with cancer and give back on a global scale. Also, through my work on the Commission I am a beacon to my daughter, who fully embodies the stance for gender equity.

Verna Vanderpuye - garden flowers

How has your work in gender equity helped you care for people with cancer, conduct research, or influence policy?

Advancing gender equity is challenging in Africa but we keep putting it on the agenda and increasing awareness. I am more interested in female patients’ social backgrounds and I tailor their cancer treatments to improve their quality of life and reduce hardships for my patients and their families. I ensure leadership roles are assigned with gender equity foremost (which is not necessarily affirmative action!) Sometimes I still get accused by male colleagues of being partial to female colleagues anytime I try to drive the equity agenda with evidence from the Commission, which is frustrating. But I wil continue to dare to challenge the status quo of male supremacy.

What excites you most about the ongoing work of the Commission in 2024?

I did not realize how wide-reaching the Commission would be when it started. We seem to have opened a can of worms! Organizations are asking for the Commission’s assistance to design and implement new policy frameworks, ensure gender equity in their work, and improve outcomes for female patients. There is so much interest. Clearly the world was waiting for this and it is great to have the evidence in one place to make it harder to deny the prevailing inequities that exist. I think the report and ongoing work of the Commission will bear valuable fruit globally.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Frankly, I am working 75% of the day! I try to find time to watch movies, attend to my garden (the floral arrangement in the photo is from my garden), and meet up with like-minded friends. I love dancing, memorizing Afrobeat lyrics, and interior decorating - I am always on Pinterest for new ideas!