Pediatrician, advocate, CEO and medical director for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (Michigan chapter)
Her story: Wanda Whitten-Shurney has a long and accomplished history of helping children and their families manage sickle cell disease. A pediatrician by training, Dr. Whitten-Shurney has provided care for children living with sickle cell disease at Children’s Hospital of Michigan for the past 30 years. She is director of the coordinating center for Newborn Hemoglobinopathy Screening Program for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Wanda was the driving force in the establishment of the Sickle Cell Donor Program for the American Red Cross of Southeastern Michigan. Currently, she is CEO and medical director of the Michigan chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA). Her father, the late Dr. Charles Whitten, was one of the co-founders of the national SCDAA and a pioneer in sickle cell education and outreach.
Her inspiration: “I’m inspired by the strength and fortitude of my patients and families despite all of the challenges they face. I want to help them conquer those challenges and move forward with a positive attitude. I am also motivated by a desire to carry on my father’s legacy in some small way.”
Biggest challenges: “There are so many challenges. Some people think that sickle cell disease has gone away and is no longer an issue. Another challenge is that some providers of adult care are not knowledgeable about sickle cell disease. Kids with sickle cell disease tend to have good access to care, but when they become adults, care is difficult and we actually see a peak in mortality. Also sickle cell patients still face accusations of drug-seeking behavior when they visit emergency rooms. We’ve got to keep patients alive and find a way to improve their quality of life.”
Her dream: “My dream and hope for the future is for a safe and universal cure. My hope for the present is to help keep patients alive with a better quality of life, and long enough to get the cure.”