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VOL. 127 | NO. 178 | Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Methodist Opens Sickle Cell Center

By Aisling Maki

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Methodist Healthcare recently opened its Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, which it says will deliver the most advanced clinical treatment available for patients with sickle-cell disease, a genetic disorder that affects about one in every 350 African-Americans.

Although most often seen in people of African descent, sickle-cell disease also occurs in people of South or Central American, Caribbean, Indian, Saudi Arabian and Mediterranean (including Turkish, Greek and Italian) ancestry, according to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.

The association says the inherited blood disorder leads to the formation of irregularly shaped red blood cells that have difficulty passing through small blood vessels.

When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, tissue may eventually become damaged from a lack of normal blood flow, leading to the complications of sickle-cell disease.

The new Methodist Healthcare Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center will partner with existing resources, such as the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee, to provide comprehensive, preventative outpatient disease management for adults and teens.

The center’s staff, which is specially trained in sickle-cell disease management, will partner with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital staff to provide care to patients older than 17, who are transitioning form pediatric care.

Located at 1325 Eastmoreland Ave. in the Medical Arts Building on the Methodist University Hospital campus, the center – led by medical director Dr. Owita Mays and operations manager Mark Yancy – operates weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Methodist Healthcare says the center, which features a specifically designed nine-chair infusion unit, is the only clinic of its type within a 300-mile radius and one of only a small handful of similar centers in the nation.

The center will operate as an outpatient clinic, providing preventative health maintenance for sickle-cell disease patients in a primary care setting, and an infusion unit for sickle-cell pain crisis management.

Clinical studies will also be conducted at the center, whose goal is to enhance the quality of life and reduce hospital admission rates for sickle cell patients.

Public funding for the center began in 2010 with a $250,000 gift from local mortgage banker Jim McGehee.

In April 2011, the Methodist Healthcare Foundation received a $1 million challenge grant from the Plough Foundation to establish an endowed chair in hematology. That challenge grant was recently met by the foundation, and to date a total of $3 million has been raised for the center.

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