CGI U 2013 at Washington University in St. Louis

Sickle cell education

Henry Schreiber and Nick Sanchez

Henry Schreiber and Nick Sanchez, graduate students in the School of Medicine

School of Medicine graduate students Henry Schreiber and Nick Sanchez want to shine a bright light on sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic disease that results in significant physical and financial hardship and is particularly prevalent in the St. Louis area, affecting 1 in 500 African-Americans here.

Symptoms are most severe in children and pregnant women and include severe pain, organ damage and stroke, all of which require expensive medical treatment. There is no cure for SCD, but accurate tests for sickle cell genes exist that help potential parents plan their families by helping them assess the chances of passing on the gene to children.

The goal of this commitment is to go to where potential parents are — local high schools — to educate them about how the disease is passed from parent to child and to encourage meetings with genetic counselors. Currently, there are community events inviting people to come and learn about such information, but this commitment is pro-active in that it aims to reach potential parents before they have children.