Sickle Cell Disease Program

Welcome to the Sickle Cell Disease Program

SCD image [View Image]

In 1972 the Virginia Sickle Cell Disease Center was initiated at MCV with Florence Neal Cooper Smith and Dr. Robert B. Scott at the helm. Today under the leadership of Dr. Wally Smith the program has expanded to include treatment, research and support of patients with Sickle Cell Disease throughout the state of Virginia. 

People diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease live with uncertainty, as crippling symptoms can erupt without warning. Our team offers research-based and evidence-based treatments to help improve your quality of life – and potentially cure your disease. We’re available 24/7 to help when you need us most. 

We offer everything you need in one stop: medical inpatient and outpatient treatment, support services to aid in managing day-to-day needs and integrated care with other specialists should complications develop. Beyond that, our doctors develop and test new therapies. Our whole-patient approach means we also help you with the social and mental health impacts of living with a life-long disease – one that isn’t visible to others.

VCU Adult Sickle Cell Medical Home

The VCU Adult Sickle Cell Medical Home was funded in 2018 and established a care team whose purpose was to achieve the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Triple Aim for adults with Sickle Cell Disease - improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction), improving the health of the population, and reducing the per capita cost of health care.Sickle Cell at VCUHealth

VCU Adult Sickle Cell Medical Home [View Image] VCU Adult Sickle Cell Medical Home [View Image]
VCU Adult Sickle Cell Medical Home

Welcome from the Program Director

Welcome from the Program Director [View Image]

Welcome from the Program Director

The year 2019 witnessed a worldwide explosion of interest in sickle cell disease (SCD), marked by the investor-ballyhooed approval of two novel compounds to prevent complications of SCD, by fast acceleration of both hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and various gene therapy approaches to aid disease remission, and by a bolus of foundation and federal support to thwart the disease in Africa and third-world nations.

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Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. People who have sickle cell disease have an abnormal protein in their red blood cells. In the United States, most people who have sickle cell disease are of African ancestry, but the condition is also common in people with a Hispanic background. Because the disease runs in families, couples planning to have children can have genetic testing.

Early signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease include swelling of the hands and feet; symptoms of anemia, including fatigue, or extreme tiredness; and jaundice. Over time, sickle cell disease can lead to complications such as infections, delayed growth, and episodes of pain, called pain crises. Most children who have sickle cell disease are pain-free between crises, but adolescents and adults may also suffer with chronic, ongoing pain. Over a lifetime, sickle cell disease can harm a patient’s spleen, brain, eyes, lungs, liver, heart, kidneys, penis, joints, bones, or skin.

A blood and bone marrow transplant is currently the only cure for sickle cell disease, and only a small number of people who have sickle disease are able to have the transplant. There are effective treatments that can reduce symptoms and prolong life. Early diagnosis and regular medical care to prevent complications also contribute to improved well-being. Sickle cell disease is a lifelong illness. The severity of the disease varies widely from person to person.

Wally Smith, MD [View Image]

Wally Smith, MD

Director, VCU Adult Sickle Cell Program

Wally Smith, MD [View Image]

Wally Smith, MD

Director, VCU Adult Sickle Cell Program

Internal Medicine

Division of General Internal Medicine

Email: wally.smith@vcuhealth.org

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Thokozeni Lipato, MD [View Image]

Thokozeni Lipato, MD

Infusion Center Medical Director

Thokozeni Lipato, MD [View Image]

Thokozeni Lipato, MD

Infusion Center Medical Director

Internal Medicine

Division of General Internal Medicine

Email: thokozeni.lipato@vcuhealth.org

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Shirley Johnson, LSW [View Image]

Shirley Johnson, LSW

Program Manager

Shirley Johnson, LSW [View Image]

Shirley Johnson, LSW

Program Manager

Internal Medicine

Shirley is a project manager in charge of supervising the interdisciplinary SCD Adult Medical Home including behavioral health team. She works to reduce hospital re-admissions and length of stay, improve quality and outcomes of care, and improve satisfaction for identified patients.

Phone: (804) 628-2627

Email: shirley.johnson@vcuhealth.org

Mica Ferlis, ACNP [View Image]

Mica Ferlis, ACNP

Nurse Practitioner

Mica Ferlis, ACNP [View Image]

Mica Ferlis, ACNP

Nurse Practitioner

Internal Medicine

Mica is a nurse practitioner that works in collaboration with the physicians to deliver health care services to patients with SCD in the inpatient setting.

Email: mica.ferlis@vcuhealth.org

Caitlin McManus, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-B [View Image]

Caitlin McManus, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-B

Nurse Practitioner

Caitlin McManus, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-B [View Image]

Caitlin McManus, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-B

Nurse Practitioner

Internal Medicine

Caitlin is a nurse practitioner that works in collaboration with the physicians to deliver health care services to patients with SCD in the outpatient setting.

Email: caitlin.mcmanus@vcuhealth.org

Emily Sushko, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-C [View Image]

Emily Sushko, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-C

Nurse Practitioner

Emily Sushko, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-C [View Image]

Emily Sushko, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-C

Nurse Practitioner

Internal Medicine

Emily is the nurse practitioner for our outpatient Infusion Clinic, providing urgent and accessible care for our patients. She works in collaboration with the sickle cell team to manage and implement treatment plans for patients who are experiencing an acute sickle cell crisis.

Email: emily.sushko@vcuhealth.org

Kate Osborne, BS, RN [View Image]

Kate Osborne, BS, RN

Registered Nurse

Kate Osborne, BS, RN [View Image]

Kate Osborne, BS, RN

Registered Nurse

Internal Medicine

Kate is a registered nurse working with our Adult Sickle Cell Disease Team. She has 15 years ICU bedside experience and still works inpatient in the Medical Respiratory ICU a few times a month. Kate is also part of the SCD infusion center team.

Email: kate.sanderson@vcuhealth.org

Justin West, BSN, RN, CMSRN [View Image]

Justin West, BSN, RN, CMSRN

Registered Nurse

Justin West, BSN, RN, CMSRN [View Image]

Justin West, BSN, RN, CMSRN

Registered Nurse

Internal Medicine

Justin is a registered nurse who shares outpatient Infusion Clinic and triage nurse duties, providing direct care and helping to address patient questions and concerns. He has also been involved in ongoing efforts to improve care of patients with SCD in the inpatient setting.

Rachel Walls, LCSW [View Image]

Rachel Walls, LCSW

Social Worker

Rachel Walls, LCSW [View Image]

Rachel Walls, LCSW

Social Worker

Internal Medicine

Email: rachel.walls@vcuhealth.org

Stefani Vaughan-Sams [View Image]

Stefani Vaughan-Sams

Patient Navigator

Stefani Vaughan-Sams [View Image]

Stefani Vaughan-Sams

Patient Navigator

Internal Medicine

Stefani is a patient navigators, also working in the clinic every week to assist patients and their families regarding health-related expenses not covered by insurance, transportation costs, and employment options. Patient navigators are also essential in facilitating transition of care.

Email: stefani.vaughan-sams@vcuhealth.org

Nakeyia Williams, BSW [View Image]

Nakeyia Williams, BSW

Patient Navigator

Nakeyia Williams, BSW [View Image]

Nakeyia Williams, BSW

Patient Navigator

Internal Medicine

Nakeyia is a patient navigators, also working in the clinic every week to assist patients and their families regarding health-related expenses not covered by insurance, transportation costs, and employment options. Patient navigators are also essential in facilitating transition of care.

Email: nakeyia.williams@vcuhealth.org

Marla Brannon, BSW [View Image]

Marla Brannon, BSW

Patient Navigator

Marla Brannon, BSW [View Image]

Marla Brannon, BSW

Patient Navigator

Internal Medicine

Marla is a patient navigators, also working in the clinic every week to assist patients and their families regarding health-related expenses not covered by insurance, transportation costs, and employment options. Patient navigators are also essential in facilitating transition of care.

Email: marla.strother@vcuhealth.org

Austin Hardy, CPhT [View Image]

Austin Hardy, CPhT

Prior Authorization Specialist

Austin Hardy, CPhT [View Image]

Austin Hardy, CPhT

Prior Authorization Specialist

Internal Medicine

Austin is a prior authorization specialist. He was hired as a pharmacy tech to handle approvals for opioid medication, check medication fills, incompliance, coordinate with nursing staff on ACC4, and input data for approvals in any medication compliance.

Daniel Sop [View Image]

Daniel Sop

Senior Clinical Research Analyst

Daniel Sop [View Image]

Daniel Sop

Senior Clinical Research Analyst

Internal Medicine

Daniel is a biomedical engineer who serves as the senior clinical research analyst for the adult SCD program. He uses his engineering training to improve analytical and systematic processes for the SCD program.

Email: daniel.sop@vcuhealth.org

Benjamin Jaworowski [View Image]

Benjamin Jaworowski

Data & Business Analyst

Benjamin Jaworowski [View Image]

Benjamin Jaworowski

Data & Business Analyst

Internal Medicine

Ben is a health informatician who is the data and business analyst for the SCD Medical Home. He performs analyses, reporting, and quality improvement for the entire clinical staff.

Email: Benjamin.Jaworowski@vcuhealth.org

Donna Casey [View Image]

Donna Casey

Administrative Assistant

Donna Casey [View Image]

Donna Casey

Administrative Assistant

Internal Medicine

Donna facilitates day to day administrative, personnel and program oversight for the Sickle Cell Program Manager and Medical Director. She supports fiscal and time management objectives by coordinating administrative services through effective interactions with the healthcare system team, administration, and support staff as well as hiring, leave and personnel management tasks.

Email: donna.casey@vcuhealth.org

Over the course of three decades, the Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) Program at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) under the direction of Wally R Smith, MD, Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professor of SCDhas helped lead the national charge for a cure for SCD.  By all measures, VCU has become a top 10 Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center in America, caring for nearly 900 children and adults statewide. Further, VCU has helped usher in the dramatic change of SCD from a disease causing death in childhood to one where two-thirds of patients are now adults. This work has included 

  • 28 Clinical Drug Trials  
  • 59 Research Projects  
  • 82 Symposium Presentations  
  • 122 Peer Reviewed published papers  
  • 126 Published abstracts or Proceedings in international venues
  • 4 Books, Book Chapters and Monographs  

These successes have drawn funding and renown to VCU from government, international scholars, community groups, and leading industry firms in SCD such as The National Institutes of Health, The Health Resources and Services Administration, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research, Kings College London, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Global Blood Therapeutics, Emmaus Life Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, and the Food and Drug Administration 

Highlights of the SCD Program include: 

  • Cure of more than 10 children and adults with SCD using bone marrow transplantation 
  • Food and Drug Administration approval of Endari (L-glutamine), the second ever anti-sickling drug  
  • Laboratory development and testing of new potential compounds for the treatment of SCD 
  • Groundbreaking research on gene therapy to cure SCD 
  • Groundbreaking, highly cited research on pain in SCD that led to new national definitions surrounding sickle cell pain
  • Development of a new evaluation tool and program to help pediatric SCD patients transition to the adult
  • A new Medical Home for adults with SCD, consisting of advanced medical, social, psychological, case management, and educational support
  • Quicker, smoother Emergency Department and inpatient pain management, customized to the patient 
  • State Attorney General approval of a regulation that allows physicians to prescribe higher levels of opioids for patients SCD without being forced to justify the treatment to legal watchdogs 

The Florence Neal Cooper Smith professorship has supported this groundbreaking work for nearly 5 years, despite being funded at only one quarter of the $1 million dollar endowed chair goal.  Our urgent push is to accelerate VCU’s work that will lead to better treatment and a cure for SCD Over 43 compounds to treat SCD are now in testing, and gene therapy may soon join bone marrow transplant as a cure for SCD. Your dollars can help VCU bring some of these compounds to market, relieve suffering, and bring new hope to patients and families affected by SCD. 

To learn more about our current research projects, visit the VCU Sickle Cell Disease Research Program (coming soon!)

 

Program Director

Wally Smith, MD
Email:  wally.smith@vcuhealth.org

Program Manager

Shirley Johnson, LSW
Phone:  (804) 628-2627
Email:  shirley.johnson@vcuhealth.org

Administrative Assistant

Donna Casey
Phone:  (804) 828-8360
Email:  donna.casey@vcuhealth.org

 

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