Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Disease: two great challenges

17 June 2009

edbyrne

On Monday 8 June 2009 a new MSc in Haemoglobionopathy was launched at UCL. Fifty staff, patients and supporters met in the university’s Terrace Restaurant to mark the event, the guests of Professor Michael Worton, UCL Vice-Provost (Academic and International), and the course directors, Dr Ratna Chatterjee and Dr Rehka Bajoria.

Among the invited guests were: Mr Panos Englezos, President of Thalassaemia International Federation (TIF) and member of the Cyprus House of Representatives; Mr Levkos Vassiliou, Welfare Minster, Cyprus High Commission in London; Dr Androulla Eleftheriou, Executive Director, TIF; Mrs Georgina Demopoulou, A G Leventis Foundation; Mr Michael Michael, President of the UK Thalassaemia Society.

group

Common haemoglobinopathies, genetic conditions that include sickle-cell disease and thalassaemia, affect about 7% of the worlds population (420 million people), of which the largest proportion are in populations in Africa, the Mediterranean basin, and Southeast Asia. Despite the widespread nature of haemoglobinopathy disorders there has never been any specialist training programme for those who treat the condition. As a result, the number of expert scientists and clinicians anywhere in the world who are fully skilled in the care, investigation and prevention of hemogobiniopathies is very few, and they are widely dispersed across the globe.

worton

Thus, the provision of this new degree programme at UCL fills an urgent need in medical training; the first of its kind anywhere. By designing the course as a web-based distance-learning programme the course directors have, at a stroke, overcome the two resolute obstacles that have previously hindered attempts to create such a course, namely: the widespread dispersal of the experts who can teach on such a course, and the widespread dispersal of those scientists and clinicians who could benefit from it. This course is therefore giving students from medical settings around the world access to experts and specialists who themselves are currently at work in many different locations. It is set to create a lively and immediate global community of specialists, combining a range of cutting-edge multidisciplinary approaches with excellence in teaching and research, within a diverse range of cultural and social settings. A major benefit is that course participants do not have to relinquish their laboratories and their patients in order to take part.

The creation of the course has been made possible through the generous funding of Thalassaemia International Federation, and the AG Levantis Foundation.

Image 1: Professor Ed Byrne, with Dr Androulla Eleftheriou, Dr Rekha Bajoria and Dr Ratna Chatterjee; Image 2: Mr Panos Englezos, Dr Androulla Eleftheriou, Mrs Georgina Demopoulou; Image 3: Dr Ratna Chatterjee and Professor Michael Worton