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URMC receives grant funding to aid sickle cell treatment

CITY Newspaper/File photo

The University of Rochester Medical Center has been named the recipient of a grant for sickle cell anemia treatment, a condition that disproportionately affects Black people and increases susceptibility to COVID-19.

URMC was one of five institutions to pull from a total of $250,000 in Access to Excellent Care for Sickle Cell Patients (ACCESS) grants from Global Blood Therapeutics. The funding to URMC will be specifically oriented toward transitional care from pediatric to adult sickle cell patients and community outreach.

“Patients often have difficulty transitioning from pediatric care to the adult world, and when their disease is not well managed they can experience health crises,” said Barb Ficarra, a spokesperson for URMC.

The grant will target patients between the ages of 12 to 18 and focus on community outreach, including mental and medical health screenings and establishment of a community health coordinator position.

According to the American Society of Hematology, sickle cell patients often carry a number of cardiopulmonary conditions which leave them particularly vulnerable for conditions like COVID-19.

Sickle cell is also a condition which overwhelmingly affects Black people. According to the Centers for Disease control, Black newborns exhibit the sickle cell trait at nearly 25 times the rate of white newborns.

“Individuals living with sickle cell disease face significant challenges every day, including accessing quality healthcare in their communities,” said Jung Choi, head of patient advocacy and government affairs at Global Blood Therapeutics, in a statement. “These challenges are greater than ever given the impact of COVID-19 and the healthcare disparities the pandemic has brought harshly to light.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached