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Damira Bayzakova

The iCMLf Directors and Advisors have selected Dr Damira Bayzakova, a pediatric oncologist from the National Center of Oncology in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) as the 2021 iCMLf Prize winner. Dr Bayzakova has been awarded the prize posthumously for her efforts that greatly improved the monitoring and treatment of CML in Kyrgyzstan and to recognize her work and legacy. The iCMLf Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to the improvement of CML under the challenging conditions of low- and middle-income countries with unequal access to monitoring and access.

“Dr. Bayzakova was a CML specialist from Kyrgyzstan who tragically passed away in November 2020, due to complications of COVID-19. She dedicated her life to her patients and through her efforts greatly improved the treatment of CML in her country.” Pat Garcia-Gonzales, CEO, The Max Foundation

In 2006, Dr Bayzakova started to cooperate with The Max Foundation and under her care the GIPAP (free imatinib) program was introduced in Kyrgyzstan. Over the years Dr Bayzakova continued this collaboration and managed to grant access to PCR testing and second and third line CML treatment to patients in Kyrgyzstan. Thanks to her hard work and immense energy, in 2021, patients with CML in Kyrgyzstan now have access to imatinib, nilotinib, dasatinib and ponatinib.

Under her leadership, the local CML patient group raised funds to purchase a GeneXpert machine. She and her team not only built a special room for this, but translated all materials she could find about the machine and PCR and educated her laboratory team. To support her efforts, the National Oncology and Hematology Centre received PCR test kits through Max’s Solidarity Fund and patients with CML had free access to primary diagnostics and monitoring.

Dr Bayzakova also raised funds for hematologists from neighbouring countries to travel to Bishkek in order to receive training in the use of PCR monitoring. Two specialists from Tajikistan participated in the training and later set up in-house monitoring facilities back home in Tajikistan. She actively collaborated with Dr Gianantonio Rosti from the University of Bologna and other doctors and International foundations from Italy. Thanks to her efforts, 93 children with cancer received bone marrow transplantation and others received reconstructive surgery in Italy for free.

Her other accomplishments included the introduction of new diagnostic methods for children with oncological diseases, such as acute lymphoblastic and myeloblastic leukemias in children, lymphogranulomatosis, malignant lymphomas, Wilms' tumors and osteosarcoma. For her dedication and experience, she was awarded the title of "Honorary Doctor of the Kyrgyz Republic" in 2011.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Damira Bayzakova worked day and night at a clinic specializing in COVID-19 to help pediatric patients with severe COVID-19 complications. Unfortunately, she caught the infection herself during her duties and developed a severe pneumonia. She then tragically passed away in November 2020 due to complications of COVID-19. This is a great loss to patients with CML in Kyrgyzstan and we express our deep condolences to her family, colleagues and friends.