Methodist sickle cell center grows in employees, patients in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Sickle cell disease continues to be prevalent in Memphis, but one center is working to combat that.

In less than five years, the Methodist comprehensive sickle cell center in Memphis has grown from zero to 200 patients.

"It's one of those illnesses that if you do not have active care, it can wreak havoc on you," said Mark H. Yancy, manager of clinical and business operations at the center.

The center opened in the fall of 2012 with three employees.

Today, they operate with nine associates that can provide lab work, research, social work, clinical psychology and more.

"For that great improvement to come forward is wonderful to our community," said Gloria Sweet-Love with the Memphis Chapter NAACP.

The center also has an internal medicine shop, meaning it can help with strep throat or anything else patients may face.

"We're just trying to make sure we keep pace with having the kind of staff to meet every need that there is for those patients when they come in," said Yancy.

A progression needed to battle what can be a very painful disease that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

"Sickle cell is very prevalent, particularly in this area; it's an African-American disease that affects approximately one in 350," said Yancy.

The center has a partnership with St. Jude and takes on their patients with sickle cell to help push the life expectancy up from what's typically 40 to 50 years old.

The center says data shows its patients have less medical emergencies and are generally healthier.

"That means for those that are here, we're doing a great job, but that means we should be more concerned about those that are not here yet," said Yancy.

The center hopes to at least double the number of patients and set a model for the country.

"We should be able to become the national standard for sickle cell care, no matter how old anybody with sickle cell is," said Yancy.