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.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through four hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our 8,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit metrohealth.org.