Dr. Bah's Story: Treating Sickle Cell in Cleveland and Beyond
Growing up in Western Africa, Tonjeh Bah witnessed first-hand the devastation sickle cell disease can have on a community with little access to modern medicine.
She also witnessed the stigma that often accompanies the painful genetic blood disorder primarily affecting individuals of African descent.
Now as a physician at MetroHealth, Dr. Bah is committed to deepening the understanding of the disease and elevating the level of care extended for those living with it – here in Cleveland and beyond.
“We don’t talk about this disease enough, and there are so many misperceptions – that these patients are drug seekers or exaggerating their pain. That is simply not true,” Dr. Bah says about the disease, which occurs in 1 out of every 365 Black or African-American births. “We can make a difference in these patients’ lives, and that’s what keeps me going.”
One of those patients was Daniella, a 3-year-old Dr. Bah met on a mission trip in Uganda.
The child, who had already lost seven of her 11 siblings to sickle cell complications, had been hospitalized. Despite a grim prognosis, Dr. Bah and the team adjusted the treatment plan and her condition improved considerably.
That hope – coupled with an almost quiet confidence – is what Dr. Bah now extends to her patients at MetroHealth.
MetroHealth’s multi-disciplinary approach to care has helped countless patients slow the occurrence of painful sickle cell episodes and curb the emergency department visits that often accompany them.
“Our patients with sickle cell should be able to live a life as close to normal as possible,” says Dr. Bah, who is planning another mission trip to Africa in December. “Sickle cell should not stop you from attaining your dreams.”
This profile is part of Faces of MetroHealth, an ongoing series of profiles of individuals from all levels of the organization who embody our mission and values. To learn more about treatment for sickle cell disease at MetroHealth, visit metrohealth.org/cancer/sickle-cell.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.