Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute

On Monday, June 26 2017, the BIE cohort visited the HEDCO Health Sciences Building at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). The HEDCO Health Sciences Building is equipped to perform a variety of assessments of pediatric bone and blood health and helps to diagnose and manage several disorders such as thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

We were hosted by Ellen Fung, Director of the Bone Density Clinic at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, and Marcela Weyhmiller, Coordinator of the SQUID-Ferritometer Program.

Ellen Fung delivers a presentation about the history and background of the HEDCO Health Sciences Building to the BIE cohort.

We began our visit with a very quick tour of the facilities, and had the opportunity to see the SQUID-Ferritometer as well as the DXA used for bone measurements. Afterwards, we watched a presentation by both Marcela and Ellen about what they do at the HEDCO Health Center as well as some of the research projects they have worked on. It was very interesting learning about how the field of blood disease treatment has changed, especially with patients who used to pass away in childhood now surviving well into adulthood and facing unique challenges.

The SQUID-Ferritometer with a blank phantom sample underneath before a scan.

Afterwards, we split into two groups for a more detailed tour of the facility. The two groups switched between two sites: the SQUID-Ferritometer room and the DXA bone scanner. For the team observing the SQUID-Ferritometer, Marcela gave us a more in-depth discussion about how the device functioned and some of the challenges in using and implementing the device on a larger scale. We were also given a demonstration on some phantom samples of what the readings looked like to measure blood iron content. The second group learned more about bone density measurements and their importance, and one member of each team actually had the opportunity to get their bone density checked to get a general read on their overall bone health. During the demonstration, Ellen explained how physicians can use the information from the bone scan, as well as some of the limitations that the machine has.

BIE Fellow Jeffrey Feng being prepped for a bone scan with the DXA scanner.

This visit opened our eyes on the field of bone and blood-related diseases and the different challenges and treatments available for patients suffering from these conditions. It also offered a very interesting insight on how a particular field can change over time as patients begin to live longer and new complications and medical needs start to appear as a result.

The BIE cohort outside of the HEDCO Health Sciences Building with Ellen Fung and Marcela Weyhmiller.