Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Patient Centered Care

I was recently sent an email where I was asked my opinion regarding sickle cell management in the US and abroad, as it relates to improving care for sickle cell disease. The question was posed by suggesting more of a cultural/social model of care rather than a medical one.

I am just a patient with Sickle Cell Disease, and an advocate for people living with the disease. I am not a medical professional, I am not an expert, nor do I profess to know what a “medical model” is verses a “cultural/social” one. All I know is my experience with having Sickle Cell Disease.

As a child, I received treatment by medical professionals within my “cultural” community and the care I received was gentle, compassionate and well trained. It was not until I grew up, began to travel and moved to different communities. More than once I’ve been told by uninformed medical professionals, “What do you have? Sickle What?”

I was disgusted when doctors would tell me, “Oh, you have Sickle Cell, only black people get that disease.” Or, doctors would say, “Oh, we don’t get many black patients here, so we don’t see cases of Sickle Cell.” This calls for more training of medical professionals.

Just for the record, my niece looks white. She is ¾ Anglo & ¼ African American. Because we have a family history of Sickle Cell, she asked her doctor to perform an electrophoresis test to see if she was a carrier for Sickle Cell Disease. He told her, “You’re white, you don’t have that disease.” She insisted, because of her family history (her mother has it). Low and behold, was tested and found to have the Sickle Cell trait. So much for “you’re white, you don’t have THAT disease.” Again, this calls for more training of care providers.

For this very reason, I believe Sickle Cell care should be approached in a patient centered model; (as a disease of humans), not as cultural model (a disease of one racial group). Sickle Cell Disease is creeping silently into all populations, all races (because of mixing) and all cultures. Now, that’s my opinion.



  1. Anonymous3:10 PM

    I agree. Disease care should not have race associated with it. Treatment should focus on care not color.

  2. Patients must take charge of their care. Ask doctors to explain if you don't understand something, tell them what meds work best for your pain, don't be afraid.

    Be a partner with your doctor (even if they don't like it)