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Cynthia

Cynthia HOLLAND

Year of Award: 2009 Award State: Victoria Health And Medicine > General
Social Welfare > General
The Jack Brockhoff Foundation Churchill Fellowship to gather data related to established children's programs catering for members of households significantly affected by either chronic illness or trauma in a parent - USA
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When a parent with young children is diagnosed with cancer, the developmental milestones of those children can be delayed. If they are too young to understand it can be difficult and stressful for them to try to come to terms with changes or to deal with their feelings of distress. As Dr Cynthia Holland puts it in her eloquent Churchill Report, ‘they can be overwhelmed by feelings they can neither understand nor express.’

On Cynthia’s 2009 Churchill Fellowship, she evaluated overseas services helping children to come to terms with the detrimental effects of a mother’s diagnosis of life-threatening gynaecological cancer. Cynthia visited leading centres so that she could return with strategies to improve services in Victoria and nationally.

At the time there were few comprehensive, hands-on resources for families in this situation and minimal professional help to assist parents to tell their children and reassure them or to help them come to terms with a potentially mortal illness. Without an informed strategy, the negative impact of this will be manifested well into and beyond childhood. Children need a repertoire of healthy coping skills and these can be taught.

Cynthia’s Churchill Fellowship enabled an extensive and invigorating exchange of ideas with many innovative American educational, medical and academic institutions, including Cancer Care New York (NYC), The Good Grief Program (Boston) and Harvard University Graduate School of Education (Cambridge).

This led to improvements in the My Kite Will Fly program, which was later piloted and clinically evaluated in a 2010-2015 Melbourne major metropolitan hospital study that tested the therapeutic interventions available to 19 families (36 children) who attended the program.

Harvard University recognised Cynthia’s outstanding leadership in the field, and invited her to participate in their 2012 Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative. Cynthia was the first Australian ever to be invited and this provided another springboard for academic and business exchange and mentorship. It also enabled better clinical implementation of the My Kite Will Fly methodology into Australian cancer treatment settings.

The opportunity offered by Cynthia’s Churchill Fellowship was an important step in Cynthia’s quest to provide better care to vulnerable children living with life-threatening parental cancers. The Fellowship offered her access to international expertise to help Australian children bounce back from and eventually thrive after losing a family member. These children too are the enduring beneficiaries of the Brockhoff sponsored Fellowships.

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