The History of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America – Michigan Chapter
The Passion Continues
To maximize the life potential of individuals living with sickle cell disease
To enable individuals with sickle cell trait to make informed decisions with respect to family planning.
To provide education and testing for the general public
SCDAA-MI’s story began in August of 1971 at Kirwood Hospital when renowned pediatrician and sickle cell expert Dr. Charles F. Whitten founded the Sickle Cell Detection and Information Program. The agency’s creation was just one achievement on Dr. Whitten’s lengthy list of accomplishments.
In 1956, he’d been selected as clinical director of pediatrics at Detroit Receiving Hospital – the first African American in the role. In 1960, he and Dr. Charles Wright founded the African Medical Education Fund. Nearly a decade later, he instituted Wayne State University’s Post Baccalaureate Enrichment Program after noticing that black students often needed additional preparation for medical school. Then in 1971 he formed the “Sickle Cell Center,” and along with Dorothy Boswell formed the National Association for Sickle Cell Disease (now the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America) that same year. He led the national organization for nearly 20 years.
Over its 48 year history, the SCDAA-MI has held fast to its mission of improving the lives of individuals with sickle cell disease. Meanwhile, it has also grown in scope in response to evolving medical and social demands. Still situated on Detroit’s northwest side, in the original building of its founding, the agency completed purchase of its interconnected stretch of buildings in 1990. The structure contains 14 offices, a laboratory where free trait and disease screening is conducted, a conference room, and an educational wing. There is also ample outdoor space for client activities. SCDAA-MI is one of the only community-based organizations in the country responsible for overseeing a state-wide sickle cell program.
After Dr. Whitten passed away in 2008, his daughter Wanda Whitten-Shurney, M.D. – a beloved pediatrician as well – stepped away from her role as Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell at Clinic Children’s Hospital of Michigan and assumed leadership of SCDAA-MI. Currently its CEO & Medical Director, she continues to steer the agency and manages to carve out time to care for newly-diagnosed infants at CHM as well.
Dr. Shurney has been a familiar and caring face to hundreds of families whose children have received their out-patient care from her during her 30-year career. She has worked relentlessly to help kids and their families manage sickle cell, emphasizing education and coping strategies to help individuals enjoy healthier, more active lives. She also a member of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Sickle Cell Advisory Committee. Her passion for sickle cell patients and the people who love them continues.