Episode One: The Challenge of Sickle Cell
Listen to episode one
Episode length: 20:04
What happens when the struggle for racial justice meets a complex medical condition? Sickle cell disease primarily affects communities of color, and the search for treatments requires work on two fronts: innovative science and addressing inequity. This episode helps us understand what sickle cell is, its affects and how treatments have developed through the experiences of Oakland patients and doctors.
Episode One: The Challenge of Sickle Cell
Akintunde (Tunde) Ahmad
Tunde is a multimedia journalist focused on the intersection of education, economic inequality, and the justice system. An East Oakland native, he holds a BA in sociology from Yale University and an MS in journalism and documentary film from Columbia University.
Brooklyn is an Oakland native and has been a patient at Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland since she was two-months old. She considers her Oakland medical staff as family. Brooklyn is passionate about sharing her sickle cell experiences with others, and recently started her own Instagram support group for adults with sickle cell disease.
Christabel is a first-generation Nigerian/Ghanaian-American opera singer and Oakland creative. She first discovered her love for music in her youth as a member of The Young Musicians Program and went on to study classically at The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Through her art, she hopes to facilitate healing within her community and inspire change-makers in society.
Marsha J. Treadwell, PhD
Dr. Treadwell is a psychologist who cares for children and families living with medical conditions and undergoing treatments, with a special focus on those affected by sickle cell disease. She helps patients and families develop and maintain resilience to better cope with stress. She is Co-Director of the UCSF Sickle Cell Center of Excellence, and Professor in the UCSF Department of Pediatrics Division of Hematology.
Elliott Vichinsky, MD
Dr. Vichinsky is a board-certified pediatric hematologist/oncologist with a major interest in understanding and improving the care of patients with hemoglobinopathies. He is the Director of the UCSF Sickle Cell Center of Excellence, Professor in Residence at UCSF, as well as the Director of the Northern California Thalassemia Center.
Mark Walters, MD
Dr. Walters is a Professor in Residence in the UCSF Department of Pediatrics, who specializes in blood and bone marrow transplants. He is also director of the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland. Walters' research focuses on transplant and gene therapy for sickle cell disease and thalassemia – which are both red blood cell disorders that involve abnormalities of hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen).
Wanda is a founding member and current co-chair of the Sickle Cell Community Advisory Council (SCCAC) of Northern California, and a former high school teacher and school administrator for the Hayward Unified School District. As a person with sickle cell disease, she has spent most of her life advocating for people living with the disease.
About sickle cell
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes blood cells to become hard, sticky and shaped like a sickle or "C." As a result, while traveling through the blood vessels, cells may become stuck and block the flow of blood throughout the body . This may cause a variety of symptoms and medical problems, including bacterial infections, pain, tissue damage, stroke and anemia. Blocked blood flow also can cause damage to the spleen, kidneys and liver.
Normal red blood cells are smooth, donut-shaped and contain hemoglobin A, which helps red blood cells transport oxygen through the blood vessels to the body. People with sickle cell anemia have red blood cells that contain hemoglobin S, an abnormal type of hemoglobin that causes the sickle shape change.
An estimated 70,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease and 1,000 babies each year are born with the condition. It affects primarily people of African descent as well as fewer numbers of those of Portuguese, Spanish, French Corsican, Sardinian, Sicilian, Italian, Greek and Turkish descent. The disease also appears in Cypriots and those from Middle Eastern countries and Asia.