ABOVE PHOTO: Dr. Nina Anderson
By Kharisma McIlwaine
Dr. Nina Anderson, founder and executive director of Tova Community Health, in association with Tova Community Health Inc. in Delaware, has worked diligently throughout her career as an advocate for health in various facets.
After graduating from Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson College of Nursing with her doctorate, Dr. Anderson committed to providing information on holistic health and quality services such as chronic disease management and comprehensive care for those suffering with sickle cell anemia, specifically.
Anderson created the James Faucett III 5K Run/Walk, the TOVA Awards, and founded a primary specialty care center that is community-based in Delaware to further her mission to provide quality services for those suffering with sickle cell anemia. Dr. Anderson spoke with the SUN about her work in the health community.
Anderson’s work grew of a need to serve communities that are often overlooked.
“I launched the primary specialty care clinic for adults living with sickle cell anemia about four years ago to bridge the gap of care from when people transition from pediatric to adult care,” she said. “We were losing so many young adults either through fragmentation of care, or just not having an expert sickle cell provider or hematologist to provide comprehensive care for this very vulnerable population.”
The statistics surrounding the lack of transitional care between pediatric care to adult care are startling.
“There’s approximately 100,000 people in United States that live with sickle cell.” Dr. Anderson continued. “Every year about 300,000 children in the world are born with sickle cell. A colleague of mine, Dr. Samir Ballas and I did research and captured data for 10 years for patients or clients that we transitioned to adult care. We looked at morbidity and mortality rates looking at patient diseases that developed and death.
“In 2018, that study was published in the American Journal of Hematology,” Anderson continued. “We compared those statistics to populations in Atlanta, Georgia and the results were pretty much the same. In the 1990s, 25% of children that transitioned to adult care died within five years after transitioning. I was astounded by those numbers. Using that information, I was able to push locally through the state of Delaware to put resources into funding community-based clinics for adults with sickle cell.”
In the vein of continuing that work, Anderson partnered with Johns Hopkins University for a telehealth initiative.
“I levered building a model that started with a telehealth concept and worked with their hematologist Dr. Sophie Lanzkron,” she said. “Her team of health providers and myself, worked together virtually through a satellite clinic and were able to manage our clients here in Delaware. From that, I won and was named “Woman of Business of the Year” for the state of Delaware in 2017.”
June 19 is National Sickle Cell Anemia Day. Anderson’s community-based clinic, which is located in Wilmington, Delaware, is in the process of launching a satellite in partnership with Delaware University, an HBCU at Capitol Park. Additionally, she’s working with senators to create additional resources.
“We are working with a senator out of South Carolina who is a co -sponsor to the Sickle Cell Treatment and Surveillance Act as well as our partner, the National Sickle Cell Disease Association for a virtual town hall meeting,” she said. “Logistics for that are being ironed out as we speak, being mindful that we are still in a COVID-19 pandemic and for those that live with sickle cell, their immune systems are suppressed.”
Anderson is also an incredible violinist, and incorporates her love for music into the care that she provides with Tova. Tova offers therapeutic counseling services for their clients. They are also offering virtual counseling.
Anderson expressed the importance of having virtual counseling options available to help combat depression especially in the wake of the pandemic.
“One of the things that I think is important is that there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way in which care is rendered to people who have complex chronic conditions… it has to be holistic and it has to be comprehensive.” Dr. Anderson said. “That means that sickle cell is just one aspect of who they are. They are a person and we want them to be able to have the ability to live [to] their full potential. That means we have to address — as health care providers — not just patients’ physical health, but also their emotional and mental health [as well], and that these all should be addressed on an equal playing field.”
To find out more information about the work that Dr. Anderson does, be sure to tune into her virtual talk show “Your Health Matters” on “Tova Tuesday” at: www.tovacommunityhealth.org. Follow Dr. Anderson on social media: @Tova Community Health.