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Kwaku Ohene-Frempong

director, Sickle Cell Center, Children's Hospital, PA

Cognizant of the influence his past has on patients, Dr. Kwaku Ohene-Frempong tries to suppress his love of athletics and the large role they played in his life at one time. The director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia doesn't tell patients about his experiences on the Ghanian Olympic track & field team or as the star of Yale University's soccer and track & field teams. He knows that most of these children cannot compete in the athletic arena of life, and he pushes them to find heroes to whom they can better relate. Heroes like himself. Heroes like the doctor in a small Ghanian town who inspired Kwaku to study medicine. As a student at Yale, Kwaku made two life-altering discoveries sickle cell disease and Janet Williams, whom he later married. His curiosity about sickle cell grew, and Kwaku then learned that he was a carrier of the disease. He entered Yale Medical School in the fall of 1970 and less than two years later, the birth of his son, Kwame, pushed him to learn even more about the disease. Then in 1986, Kwaku returned to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Employed by the University of Pennsylvania, Kwaku continued the same type of work, breaking ground in the pediatric sickle cell disease field and making steps toward his current position as the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center's director. He assumed the position in 1990 and has made great strides in improving awareness of sickle cell disease and treatment of the illness. Early in his career, Kwaku was involved in one of the National Institute of Healths (NIH) first sickle cell studies. Prior to this study, entitled the Comparative Study of Sickle Cell Disease, most information on the topic came from antidotal sources and a high percentage of it was inaccurate, according to the NIH's director of blood disease and resources division, and long time colleague and friend of Kwaku, Dr. Clarisce D. Reid. Kwaku also organized one of the, it not the, largest conferences on the issue of the deadly disease. More than 800 representatives from the medical and political arenas from all over the world met in Ghana and put sickle cell disease on the country's public health agenda. His work in the U.S. has not been slowed by his project in Africa, and he currently serves as the president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.