Partnering for better care

More than 20 percent of adults and children who have sickle cell disease also suffer from asthma. Controlling asthma symptoms is important to help patients from having episodes of pain associated with sickle cell that can be triggered by the respiratory disorder.

At the Vanderbilt-Meharry-Matthew Walker Sickle Cell Center of Excellence, a gift from the Junior League of Nashville enables providers to diagnose and treat children with asthma. The Junior League has been committed to ensuring the well-being and health of children in Nashville for over 90 years, and has had a long-standing partnership with Vanderbilt as part of that commitment.

With a $1.5 million pledge from the Junior League, Vanderbilt established the Junior League Sickle Cell Disease and Asthma Program to provide volunteers, resources and support and education services in a community setting to families affected by sickle cell disease and asthma.

“The Junior League of Nashville is excited to support such a comprehensive solution for two common illnesses that affect so many families in our community,” said Laura Creekmore, president of the Junior League of Nashville. “Vanderbilt’s passion for innovation and partnership will set a new standard of care that promises a healthier future for children with sickle cell disease and asthma. As a leader in personalized care, Vanderbilt is truly creating a model for wellness by better preventing and controlling acute episodes of sickle cell pain and asthma.”

“We are proud to support this project with our trained volunteers and with funding. We believe it gets right at the spirit of the Junior League’s work for more than 90 years in Nashville, helping children reach their full potential.”

With the Junior League’s support, Michael DeBaun, M.D., MPH, director of the center, and his team, created one of the only complete pulmonary functions testing labs for sickle cell in the area to diagnose, treat and support asthma in children who have both diseases. The program also has a dedicated respiratory therapist, Valencia Bryant, CRT, pulmonary diagnostic coordinator, and nurse practitioner Brandi McClain, RN, MSN, to work with families.

“Valencia works as a case manager for all children with asthma and Brandi not only provides medical care, but is a certified asthma educator. Together they provide the best possible care for this vulnerable population anywhere in the U.S.,” Debaun said. “None of this would be possible without the gracious support of the Junior League of Nashville. We are extremely grateful their ongoing commitment to better the health and lives of children.”

Housed inside the lab is a plethysomograph, an all-glass body-sized box, used to measure how much air a person’s lungs can hold. Bryant conducts full lung studies and works with families to understand environmental factors that might trigger the asthma and how to control and treat it.

– by Christina Echegaray