Anemia Institute for Research and Education

September 15, 2007 14:55 ET

George Smitherman Honoured at Anemia Conference for Leadership in Newborn Screening

Healthcare experts and patient groups call for improved standards of care for patients with anemia and related blood disorders

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 15, 2007) -

Editors Note: A photo for this release will be available on the CP picture wire via Marketwire.

The Hon. George Smitherman, Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, accepted an Award of Appreciation today from the Anemia Institute for Research & Education, Sickle Cell Association of Ontario, and Thalassemia Foundation of Canada, at the biennial Anemia Conference held in Toronto. Minister Smitherman was honored for his leadership role in expanding newborn screening in Ontario and specifically targeting sickle cell disease.

"I appreciate this recognition of the progress we have made so far. However, now is not the time to rest on our laurels," said Minister Smitherman. "Much still remains to be done."

"It was important to the anemia community for Minister Smitherman to be here today to receive our appreciation for the expansion of newborn screening in Ontario. We also wanted him to hear from patients directly about all the challenges they face that still need to be addressed," said Durhane Wong-Rieger, President and CEO of the Anemia Institute. "We are pleased that today the Minister committed to sitting down with thalassemia and sickle cell leaders to work together to address these challenges."

Awards were also given to the families of Howard Leung and Corrado Falcitelli, two young leaders in the anemia community who passed away earlier this year. They were joined at the conference by patients, family members and healthcare professionals to discuss the latest research, treatments and issues in managing chronic anemia, including thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

"My brother knew first hand the limits of care for patients requiring frequent blood transfusions and he fought for better care and treatments. My family is proud to accept this award on his behalf and ask people to remember his story and carry forward his legacy of hope," said Winnie Leung, Howard's sister. "I saw my brother's pain and suffering and my hope is that today the Health Minister now understands there is an urgent need to improve quality of care in Ontario."

Among the most notable sessions at the conference was a panel discussion entitled "Setting New Standards for Thalassemia Care in Canada: What It Means for Patients and Healthcare Professionals and What It Will Take to Get There?" Leading healthcare experts and patients expressed optimism that standards would help close the gap between existing and optimal treatment and care. Both patients and experts raised the concern that some components of standard of care, including oral iron chelation, are not yet universally available to patients in Ontario.

Dr. Melissa Forgie, Program Director, Hematology Training Program, University of Ottawa, The Ottawa Hospital, underscored that the "availability of oral iron chelation is a long awaited and needed option to improve compliance and better health outcomes for these patients."

The 2007 Anemia Conference brought together approximately 150 patients, their families and healthcare professionals to explore the latest clinical developments, patient care frameworks and emerging issues related to the care and management of anemia-related disorders.

About the Anemia Institute for Research and Education

The Anemia Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to generating and sharing knowledge about anemia as a serious condition - particularly amongst patients and health care professionals dealing with disease and/or treatment related risks factors for anemia. For more information on Anemia and other blood disorders, please visit

Contact Information

  • Joanne Koskie
    (416) 924-5700 ext 4049 or Cell: (416) 400-6352