Sir David Weatherall Discusses Escalating Global Health Problem at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland

Released: 9-Nov-2011 7:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland
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Sir David Weatherall is leading World Health efforts on dangerous hemoglobin disorders, visits model medical clinic and research labs dedicated to hemoglobin disorders at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland

Newswise — November 9, 2011 - Oakland, Calif. – Each year 300,000 to 500,000 babies are born with severe forms of hemoglobin disorders worldwide. It is estimated that 7% of the world’s population are carriers of the genes that may cause these diseases. While originally most common in warm climates, extensive population migration has resulted in hemoglobinopathies becoming a worldwide public health problem, including the United States and particularly California.

The exponential increase in hemoglobin disorders (“hemoglobinopathies” including sickle cell disease and thalassemia) led the World Health Organization (WHO) to address this problem globally with efforts to promote and support research, increase awareness, and provide support for prevention and management of these disorders. Leading the World Health Organization’s effort to address this public health crisis is distinguished physician and researcher Sir David Weatherall who will present “The Inherited Disorders of Hemoglobin: An Increasing Global Health Problem" at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland on Thursday, November 10, 2011.

Dr. Weatherall has been leading efforts with the World Health Organization and has initiated an international program of developed and developing countries to share resources in addressing the medical, ethical, social and economic issues of this public health crisis. These partnerships have developed specialized programs in areas largely ignored by the international health community and governments. Dr. Weatherall is leading an effort to expand commitments from countries like the United States in areas of greatest need. For instance, in many regions of smaller countries, the cost of transfusion alone for these patients account for greater than 7% of total health expenditures. For more than 15 years, Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland has participated with Dr. Weatherall's worldwide efforts.

“It is an honor to host Sir David Weatherall at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland,” said Elliott Vichinsky, MD, Medical Director of Hematology/Oncology at Children’s and a Principal Investigator at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) focusing on sickle cell disease and thalassemia. "Sir David has made the most important scientific, medical and public health contributions to hemoglobinopathies and I expect he will be receiving the Nobel Prize soon for his work.”

A medical pioneer, Sir David Weatherall transformed the clinical treatment and genetic understanding of thalassemia throughout the last 50 years. He first encountered the inherited blood disorder during his British military service in Singapore – thalassemia is most common in people of Asian, the Mediterranean, and the Middle Eastern descent – and went on to complete a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. In 1987, Dr. Weatherall was knighted for his scientific accomplishments and in 1989, he founded the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford, later renamed the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. At Oxford, he held the most distinguished chair, the Regius Professor of Medicine. In 2002, he published a monumental report “Genomics and World Health” for the World Health Organization, followed by a close partnership with the National Institutes of Health to form a world health initiative for hemoglobinopathies. In the last two years, he received two of the most prestigious awards in the United States: the Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Sciences, and the 2011 Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award.

Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland has a state-of-the-art pediatric clinical hematology program caring for more than 800 patients with sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and hemoglobinopathies. Dr. Vichinsky leads a team of dozens of clinicians and scientists in the Center for Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia at the renowned biomedical research center Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI).

About Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland
Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is Northern California’s only independent not-for-profit regional medical center for children. Children’s Hospital Oakland is a national leader in many pediatric specialties including hematology/oncology, neonatology, cardiology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and neurosurgery. The hospital is one of only two solely designated California Level 1 pediatric trauma centers with the largest pediatric inpatient critical care unit in the region. Children’s Hospital has 190 licensed beds, 201 hospital-based physicians in 30 specialties, more than 2,700 employees, and an annual operating budget of more than $350 million. Children’s is also a premier teaching hospital with an outstanding pediatric residency program and a number of unique pediatric subspecialty fellowship programs. Children’s research program, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), is internationally renowned for taking state-of-the-art basic and clinical research and translating it into interventions for treating and preventing human diseases. CHORI has 300 members of its investigative staff, a budget of about $50 million, and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 research centers in National Institutes of Health funding to children’s hospitals. For more information, go to www.childrenshospitaloakland.org and www.chori.org.


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