August 4, 2011

Grant aids sickle cell disease treatment

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Michael DeBaun, M.D., MPH, has received a grant to establish the new Vanderbilt, Meharry, Matthew Walker Center for Sickle Cell Disease Excellence. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Grant aids sickle cell disease treatment

Michael DeBaun, M.D., MPH, vice chair for Clinical Research for Vanderbilt’s Department of Pediatrics, has received a $1.4 million grant from the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) for the new Vanderbilt, Meharry, Matthew Walker Center for Sickle Cell Disease Excellence.

DeBaun, an internationally known sickle cell disease expert, is director of the Center for Excellence, which seeks to provide the best possible care for children and adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) over the life spectrum. Nashville was one of six sites to receive the federal award.

“The grant is a reflection of leadership from three institutions coming together and agreeing that we can provide comprehensive care to individuals with sickle cell disease,” said DeBaun, J.C. Peterson, M.D. Chair in Pediatric Pulmonology.

The four-year grant supports the medical home model of care in a community setting that will be offered to patients at the center, a collaboration of Vanderbilt, Meharry and Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Centers, a Federal Qualified Health Center.

A medical home is designed to offer integrated comprehensive care for patients through a team of health care providers, including primary care physicians, specialists and other staff. Funding will be used for personnel and assessment of clinical care outcomes.

“Every child and adult with a chronic disease, specifically with sickle cell disease, should have a medical home,” said DeBaun. “They should have a location where the nurses and doctors know them and their family by name. They should have coordinated care, where most of their medical care, dental care and psycho-social needs can be delivered in a single location.”

Nearly 100,000 people in the United States are living with SCD, a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. The disease most commonly affects the African-American population, occurring in one of every 400 births.

DeBaun said the care for patients with SCD has traditionally been fragmented, and wants to create a new paradigm of medical care with the new center — still a work in progress.

“As that individual with SCD moves from infancy to adolescence to an adult, the philosophy of care for the life spectrum for that individual will be consistent, and will involve the same set of primary care providers and specialists who work as a team and who know the patient with SCD and their family.”

DeBaun arrived at Vanderbilt last November from Washington University in St. Louis to lead the center.

He brought with him more than $4 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, namely to prevent progression of silent strokes in children with sickle cell, as well as a study to determine how asthma and sleep disorders contribute to sickle cell-related morbidity.