University of Mississippi to Use $85.5K Grant to Support Sickle Cell Efforts

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by Mary Chapman |

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The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) will use a portion of a $169,500 grant from the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Mississippi on sickle cell disease (SCD) treatment and provider training.

The funding, which will also support UMMC’s efforts to address pediatric behavioral health issues throughout Mississippi, is part of the UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to improve healthcare access and parity in underserved communities.

“Providing equitable access to care and health education resources to Mississippians is a core part of the UnitedHealthcare mission,” J. Michael Parnell, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Mississippi, said in a press release. “The University of Mississippi Medical Center has the clinical knowledge to address some of our state’s biggest needs and we are honored to help bring this knowledge to high-risk and high-need communities.”

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A total of $85,500 will go to UMMC’s department of pediatrics, division of hematology, to support rural medical education and SCD treatment in the Mississippi Delta region, which is in the state’s northwest section.

“What is so exciting about this program is that, instead of just seeing patients, I get to teach family medicine residents how to care for people with sickle cell disease so they can do this throughout the region for many years to come. The impact is exponential,” said Melissa McNaull, MD, professor of hematology at UMMC.

Through the grant, McNaull is establishing a clinic for sickle cell patients in Greenville, Mississippi.

Children’s of Mississippi, which is part of the UMMC, provides comprehensive sickle cell care to about 950 pediatric SCD patients statewide as part of its Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

The center is currently involved in six multi-center clinical trials and two in-house trials that are studying SCD and potential treatments. There is also an adolescent sickle cell program and a joint sickle cell and asthma clinic. In addition, there is an annual summer camp and adolescent retreat, patient scholarships and other educational activities.

The grant is part of multiple initiatives that UnitedHealthcare and its parent company, UnitedHealth Group set up to address health equity in the U.S. Such efforts include a $1 million investment to support Mississippi-based organizations.

Likewise, the UMMC, located in Jackson, Mississippi, seeks to improve the health of the state’s residents and eliminate health disparities.