New Fund Will Advance Care, Research and Education in Sickle Cell Disease at ChristianaCare

ChristianaCare is establishing the William E. and Rubye T. Proudford Sickle Cell Endowed Fund. The fund will benefit patient care, research and education for people with sickle cell disease at ChristianaCare’s Center for Special Health Care Needs.

Through the generosity of the William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund, Inc., ChristianaCare joins a select group of health care institutions in the mid-Atlantic region partnering with the Delaware-based nonprofit organization.

“It’s critically important that patients have access to leading-edge care and compassionate care by providers who understand sickle cell and its overall impact on a person’s life,” said Karen Proudford, Ph.D., daughter of William and Rubye Proudford and president of the board of the Proudford Fund.

She said ChristianaCare has the first partnership to carry the name of both of her parents.

The Proudford Fund works to increase awareness, research and treatment for a disease that affects more than 100,000 people in the United States, most of whom are of African ancestry or identify themselves as Black.

The partnership was announced on Sept. 16 at a special event at the Gateway Conference Center in Wilmington Hospital.

“We are grateful for the philanthropic vision and generous commitment by the William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund,” said Charmaine Wright, M.D., MSHP, director of the Center for Special Health Care Needs. It is the only center in the area dedicated to providing primary care for adults 18 and older with complex medical conditions that began in childhood.

Caregivers at the Center for Special Health Care Needs bring expertise so that patients with inherited blood disorders can live to the fullest. Here these caregivers are joined by Sen. Tom Carper (center) and Karen Proudford (fourth from right).

“This gift supports our team of medical experts who work to help our patients with inherited blood disorders live to the fullest,” Wright said.

“As a result of this partnership, we will be able to help educate other health care professionals about sickle cell disease and develop community programs that provide outreach to minority and underserved populations.”

Sickle cell disease refers to a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that affect hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through the body. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that are crescent or “sickle”-shaped.

Sickle cell disease is aptly named. Healthy red blood cells are round and flexible. In people with sickle cell disease, the red blood cells can form half-moon or “sickle” shapes.

These cells do not bend or move easily and can block blood through the body, leading to serious problems, including stroke, infections and chronic pain. Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the U.S.

To learn more about supporting ChristianaCare, contact our Office of Philanthropy at 302-327-3305.

“This philanthropic partnership is a prime example of the power of philanthropy: Something amazing happens when you bring people together who share a common goal of wanting to make a positive difference in the community,” said Dia Williams Adams, MPA, vice president of Philanthropy at ChristianaCare.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper was among those who attended the gift announcement. He credited the partnership with continuing the important work of keeping a community healthy.

“To the Proudford family, thank you for your refusal to give up,” he said. “You’re an inspiration to all of us.”

ChristianaCare is a leader in sickle cell research. Because the disease spans a lifetime, it requires a continuum of care. The Delaware Comprehensive Sickle Cell Research Center, one of the National Institutes of Health Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), was created to meet patients’ ongoing needs. ChristianaCare is a partner.

In 2021 the center received a $10.5 million COBRE grant for four projects, including research led by Stephanie Guarino, M.D., MSHP, clinical lead for the Sickle Cell Program at the Center for Special Health Care Needs. The current project is an extension of her 2019 pain-management survey of people with sickle cell anemia.

“With the Proudford fund,” Guarino said, “we also can continue our research to advance our knowledge and treatment of three specific types of the disease: sickle cell anemia, hemoglobin sickle cell disease, and hemoglobin sickle beta-thalassemia, a form of Cooley’s Anemia.”