A New Chapter in Cancer Care: Amy Wallis is on a Mission to Transform Survivorship

Dr Amy Wallis is the co-founder of Selsus who are addressing the often overlooked journey of life after cancer treatment. In a country where more than 1.4 million individuals are living with cancer, the shift from intensive treatment routines back to the nuances of daily life can be daunting and isolating. Through the innovative use of telehealth and digital platforms, Selsus is committed to bridging this gap, offering customised rehabilitation and survivorship care accessible to everyone across Australia, transcending barriers of geography and cancer type. Learn more from Dr Wallis as she shares the mission and impact of Selsus in transforming post-treatment care
A New Chapter in Cancer Care: Amy Wallis is on a Mission to Transform Survivorship
Written by
Peter Birch
Published on
May 14, 2024

”Seeing a patient's relief as they realise they're not alone post-treatment, that's what drives us"

Can you introduce yourself and your clinical background?

My name is Dr Amy Wallis, I am the co-founder of Selsus (Andrew Smith is my co-founder), and I am an occupational therapist. I have over 20 years clinical, academic and research experience within the chronic condition space, predominantly in cancer supportive care. I have completed my PhD in adolescent and young adult cancer, looking at how cancer impacts daily life and participation in occupational roles throughout the disease trajectory. I have experience in both the private sector and corporate sector, have established a health clinic and have been published in peer reviewed national and international journals multiple times. I have also worked for the last 8 years educating and mentoring health professionals in the supportive cancer care space, throughout Australia.

What is your innovation or company, and the problem you're solving?

There are over 1.4 million Australians currently living with cancer, and over 18 million globally. Australia’s health system is excellent at preventing and treating cancer, but what happens when treatment is over? 

During treatment, a patient will have up to half a dozen contacts per week with cancer experts (Drs, Nurses, Allied Health), but once treatment finishes patients feel abandoned and the structure and framework of treatment disappears, leaving them to navigate life on their own. Patients are often navigating the system with limited health literacy, generic information and little to no guidance. 

Our mission at Selsus is to improve the well-being and quality of life of individuals living with and beyond cancer, and to help them to reclaim and rebuild their lives. We 

currently run a rehabilitation and survivorship care service via telehealth and are launching the integration of our digital platform that will help us to scale and provide far reaching supportive care for people with cancer. We aim to provide tailored cancer rehabilitation to every Australian who needs it, irrespective of postcode, socio-economic status or cancer type.

What was the catalyst moment to start your innovation?

Andrew and I met in 2017 and realised we shared a passion for cancer supportive care. Through our discussions we identified that there was very little support out there for people living with or beyond cancer in terms of reclaiming and rebuilding their lives after cancer treatment. We saw this anecdotally, with our own patients and in the research. The catalyst for our digital solution came about when we realised the need to scale supportive care services to reach as many people as we could.

What was something unexpected you learnt along the way?

The entrepreneur ecosystem within Australia and healthcare specifically is much larger than I had anticipated. I was happy and enthused to learn that there are more allied health clinicians working in this space than I had thought there were, and that there is great appetite for collaboration. 

What do you believe are the most critical healthcare challenges today, and how can programs like this help address them?

Equitable access, funding of services and tailored care are major problems facing people during their cancer rehabilitation. Selsus is addressing these challenges by providing a telehealth and online digital solution. Our platform helps people to engage in evidence-based care, provided by cancer experts even if they live rurally or remotely, we are working with cancer organisations to provide funding/cost alternatives, and above all our service offers tailored cancer rehabilitation. We do not offer generic care; we hear what impacts each patient's ability to re-engage and live better and tailor our service to that person's needs. Additionally, we offer holistic care, something that can be challenging in the health system.

How do you envision the future of healthcare?

Accessible to all, no matter your postcode, your demographic location and your cancer type. Cost of treatment is often a major issue for people with cancer and I would love to see this change within our healthcare system. I believe working in the digital space and providing easy access through digital solutions for people with cancer is the way forward. 

Share a key moment or experience from the program that influenced your approach to healthcare innovation.

"Fall in love with the problem, not your solution" was a quote that I heard from our mentors very early in the program and this has stuck with me. We understand the problem very well in the cancer space, and it was useful to hear that being adaptable and reactive to consumer feedback at all points of the digital solution journey is key. Keeps us coming back to the problem! 

Any advice for clinicians interested in healthcare entrepreneurship?

Go for it! It is a great way to stay on task, motivated and to meet other people who understand what you are trying to achieve, and the challenges, highs and lows associated with healthcare entrepreneurship. We have been lucky enough to make some great friends and professional connections during AUSCEP and look forward to keeping these over the journey of Selsus.

What's next for your journey as a clinical entrepreneur?

To continue to grow the reach of our digital solution, reach as many people in need as possible and to continue to reiterate our solution based on consumer needs. We are growing our network of partnerships as well, so we hope to continue to do this as part of our growth strategy.

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