The UAMS Adult Sickle Cell Clinical Program was established in January 2014, with support from the Arkansas Legislature, the Minority Health Commission and Arkansas Medicaid. For decades, Arkansas Children’s Hospital has been caring for children with Sickle Cell Disease, but as the patients reached adulthood, there was no organized continuation of care, and many with the disease were lost to follow up. Now, we have the opportunity to continue evidence-based, quality care for adult Arkansans with this rare, genetic blood disorder.
This program would not exist were it not for the tireless grassroots efforts of Germaine and LaKisha Johnson of Sickle Cell Support Services, a non-profit organization that lobbied the state legislature for years regarding the need for a specialized clinic for adults with Sickle Cell Disease. Germaine had very advanced Sickle Cell Disease, yet was often seen at the Capitol, advocating for others with the illness. He died in 2014, but not before he saw his dream become a reality. The Black Caucus within the AR Legislature and the Minority Health Commission was instrumental in making this program a reality.
Within UAMS, Chancellor Dan Rahn recognized the importance of the proposed Adult Sickle Cell Clinical Program and supported our efforts at every turn. The Division of Hematology/Oncology partnered with the Center for Distance Health to create a multi-pronged approach to caring for Arkansas’s adults with this life-limiting genetic disorder. Drs. Issam Makhoul and Curtis Lowery (Division Directors of Hematology/Oncology and Center for Distance Health, respectively) are to be thanked for the support they brought to this initiative.
Patients with Sickle Cell Disease receive care at our Sickle Cell Clinic, within the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. They benefit from care in our Infusion Center, where nurses infuse fluids, transfuse blood and provide pain relief. They visit our ED, where their painful crises and emergent needs are managed, and they frequent our Apheresis Unit, where much-needed red blood cell exchanges can take place. Our nurses and physicians care for the patients when they are admitted here, and our Call Center Nurses take calls from physicians from around the state when patients are admitted elsewhere. Thanks to all the staff at UAMS who make the Adult Sickle Cell Clinical Program a success.