Sickle cell disease plays an important role in black history, and vice versa. This month, we will highlight African American sickle cell pioneers to learn more about our community’s history.
Our first #SCDHistoryHighlight shines a light on the life and work of our co-founder Dr. Charles F. Whitten. Dr. Whitten was a pediatric hematologist whose dedication to supporting the health of sickle cell patients paved the way for advances in screening, education and more. His pioneering work makes him one of the most important figures in sickle cell history.
Dr. Whitten is widely celebrated to this day for his dedication to sickle cell screening. In 1974, he established the Sickle Cell Detection and Information Center in Detroit, Michigan. The center was the most comprehensive community program in the country at the time. During his time at the center, Dr. Whitten educated children and families about sickle cell disease and created color-coded dice to teach couples about the genetic risks of the condition.
Prior to founding the Sickle Cell Detection and Information Center, Dr. Whitten practiced medicine for many years as a faculty member of Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Whitten was dedicated to increasing the representation of African American physicians in the medical field, and created a post-baccalaureate program that graduated almost 300 students of color by it’s 30th anniversary.
Dr. Whitten understood the urgency of creating a national effort to address sickle cell disease, and was crucial to founding SCDAA. He also founded the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America of Michigan, which remains one of SCDAA’s original member organizations. SCDAA thanks Dr. Whitten for all he did to advance the treatment of sickle cell disease and make medicine more equitable for providers and patients. His place in our history is well deserved.