The children of St. Jude – Dr. Jane Hankins

Growing up in Brazil, Dr. Jane Hankins speaks three languages:  Portuguese (her native tongue), Spanish, and English.  What she really wants to do is speak for underprivileged children all over the world.   

“Most of my sickle cell patients are poor, and I feel like it’s just the population with the greatest need, and I feel I can have a greater impact if I treat them,” she says.  “Approximately one out of every 400 to 500 African American babies will have the disease, and maybe one out of 1,000 Hispanics will have the trait.”

It was the study of blood that led Dr. Hankins from Brazil to St. Jude–more specifically, the blood disease sickle cell anemia.  She now works with children within a 300 mile radius of Memphis. “All of the babies born in western Tennessee with the Sickle Cell disease come to us here at St. Jude so we receive about 50 new cases of sickle disease per year here at St. Jude,” she says. “So they come as babies and then we follow them until age 18, and then during those 18 years, we give them treatment, education, we educate the parents.”

Sometimes the parents educate her – or at least they try.  She says with the internet and other resources, parents are more informed than ever before.  “It’s good, keeps us on our toes.  It is not anymore ‘I tell you what to do.’ It is ‘Here are the options, and let’s do what’s best for you.’”

Depending on the case and sickness, St. Jude keeps up with some patients for many years into adulthood to help understand cancer long-term.  Dr. Hankins wants every patient that goes through St. Jude to be ready for a fast-paced world.  “Treat, prepare, educate our families and prepare this teenager to become an adult successful person that can keep up with the pace.”