In June, Imperial College London interviewed 2009 Tutu Fellow Julie Makani about sickle-cell Disease for World Sickle Cell Day 2023. Dr Makani joined Imperial College London as the Provost's Visiting Professor of Haematology in April 2023, and is a Physician Scientist in the Department of Haematology and Blood Transfusion at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Dar es Salaam. She is known for her research in Africa, particularly Tanzania, where sickle cell disease has the fifth-highest occurance of the disease globally.
While training in medicine, Julie realized that there were only two hematologists in the entire country.
She went on to study internal medicine as a post-graduate with the goal of building her career in Africa, and more specifically, to strengthen the sickle cell and haematology services in Tanzania. Julie wanted to work closely with those individuals effected by the disease. Three of her cousins were born with variations of the disease, she said, all of whom passed away.
Dr. Julie Makaki is Associate Professor in the Department of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences. She states that humility, and willingness to learn from others, are required in learning new knowledge. An integrated approach is needed where patients who have been disenfranchised and neglected must also be sitting at the table.
In the interview, she said a goal of hers was to become involved in health policy and advocacy, to try to make decision makers understand why they should invest in sickle cell disease. From an African perspective, sickle cell disease has the biggest burden in terms of prevalence, morbidity and mortality, and it's curable with gene therapy. By using gene therapy, if sickle cell disease can be cured, it would then be possible to apply the knowledge to other conditions that are more complex. However, you can’t have a gene therapy for an African disease developed outside of Africa because it is inappropriate from an equity perspective.
The full interview can be read at the Imperial College site.