As Chief Medical Officer, Freda Lewis-Hall leads Pfizer Medical, the division of Pfizer responsible for the safe, effective and appropriate use of the company’s medicines and vaccines. Before coming to Pfizer in 2009, Dr. Lewis-Hall held senior leadership positions with Vertex, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia and Lilly. Prior to joining the biopharmaceutical industry, she served as vice chairperson and associate professor of the Department of Psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine and was an advisor to the National Institute of Mental Health. Trained as a psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis-Hall began her medical career in frontline patient care and became well-known for her work on the effects of mental illness on families and communities and on issues of health care disparities. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
In 2010, Dr. Lewis-Hall was appointed by the Obama Administration to the inaugural Board of Governors for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI); her PCORI appointment was renewed in 2014. She chairs the Cures Acceleration Network Review Board of the National Institutes of Health and serves as a member of the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Advisory Council. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative and on the boards of Harvard Medical School, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, and Save the Children.
Dr. Lewis-Hall was named one of Black Enterprise’s “Top 50 Women in Corporate America” in 2015 and was the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s 2011 “Woman of the Year.” She earned her undergraduate degree at The Johns Hopkins University and her medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine. A passionate advocate for empowering patients through access to research-based medical information, she speaks frequently in venues from TEDMED to the Essence Music Festival; appears regularly as a medical expert on television shows including The Doctors and Dr. Phil; and shares health and medical information at GetHealthyStayHealthy.com.
Can someone with the trait experience symptoms?
If you have just the sickle cell trait, that means that you carry a gene for sickle cell that you inherited from one of your parents. You have to have inherited genes from both parents to have sickle cell disease. If you have just the trait but not the disease, in most cases it won’t affect your health. But be sure to discuss any symptoms with your healthcare team. So, be aware of the symptoms. If you have bouts of unexplained pain, yellowish skin or eyes, fatigue, swelling of the hands or feet, vision issues or frequent infections, among other symptoms, and you don’t know your sickle trait status, see your doctor.
Aren’t people in the Mediterranean also subject to sickle cell disease?
Yes, that’s right. Sickle cell disease affects people from ethnic groups including Hispanics, people from the Middle East and around the Mediterranean, and people from South Asia. But the rate of having the trait is highest among people of African descent.
How can I find out if I have the trait?
Testing is easy-a simple blood draw. If you don’t know if you have the trait and are planning to have a child, you may want to get tested. If you test positive for the sickle cell trait, you may want to consider genetic counseling before you and your partner have a child. Finally, you should know that in the U.S., babies are now routinely tested at birth for the sickle cell trait.
What is the life expectancy of someone with sickle cell?
Over the past few decades, there have been increases in life expectancy for people in the United States with sickle cell disease, with many patients living into their 40s, 50s and beyond. But the average life span in our nation now exceeds 78 years, so too many lives are still shortened by sickle cell disease. New and better treatments are urgently needed, and people with sickle cell disease can help develop new therapies by volunteering for a clinical trial.
A good next step: talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of enrolling in a clinical trial. To find out more information about clinical trials, go toclinicaltrials.gov. You can also find more information on volunteering for a clinical trial on gethealthystayhealthy.com.