501 (C) (3) Organization elevating the voices of the sickle cell disease community
Co-Founder and Honorary Board Member
Marqus is a Co-Founder of Sick Cells. He began Sick Cells in 2008 as a documentary to show his life with sickle cell disease (SCD). Marqus believes that if people truly could see and understand what people living with SCD endure, that we would see a shift in the way the sickle cell community is treated.
Marqus discovered that he could reach a wider audience to educate about SCD through film, storytelling, and openly sharing about his life with sickle cell disease. Harnessing his creativity and passion for advocacy, Marqus put his documentary on hold and co-founded, with is sister Ashley, Sick Cells, to share more important stories from the entire SCD community.
Marqus lives with SCD, hgb ss. He has endured many complications, including strokes, acute chest, sepsis, and chronic pain. He uses his experiences to help others learn about SCD. He is a patient advocate, a mentor for others living with SCD, and an advisor for all areas of Sick Cells. Marqus ensures that the voice and scope of Sick Cells always remains focused on the families and individuals with SCD. His passion and dedication to the sickle cell community has always helped him to overcome the challenges of living with SCD and inspired others to join the mission of addressing the many healthcare inequalities of those affected by SCD.
Ashley is Sick Cells' co-founder and a recognized leader in the sickle cell community at a local and national level. She brings a wealth of experience to the field of sickle cell disease (SCD), and her knowledge and skill set continue to make a great impacts in the lives of those suffering from SCD.
After graduating from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Ashley pursued her graduate studies completing her Master’s Degree in Applied Sociology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. During graduate school, Ashley worked in London with the Merton Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Group. Part of her work included interviewing sickle cell patients to better understand the obstacles and challenges they faced living with sickle cell. Ashley discovered similarities in social disparities between the US and the UK and realized these were likely worldwide. This motivated her to dedicate herself to make a difference for those living with sickle cell, including her brother, Marqus.
After returning to the US, Ashley collaborated with University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in a large anti-bullying initiative as a Sickle Cell Support Group Facilitator. Shortly after her time with UIC, Ashley joined IMPAQ International where she was able to incorporate her knowledge of sickle cell disease into federal policy projects.
Through the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Ashley’s Strategic Innovative Engine project (SIE) received federal funding for quality improvement in March of 2016, topic entitled Sickle Cell Disease Pain Management in the ED. Currently, Ashley works as a clinical research coordinator at Children’s National Medical Center in DC as part of their sickle cell team.
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Kelly Hawthorne, MS
Chief Communications Officer
Kelly is the Chief Communications Officer for Sick Cells. Using her passion for healthcare and endless creativity, Kelly strives to tackle the questions of why not enough people care about sickle cell disease and what we can do so people get the care and treatment they deserve.
As head of the Sick Cells' communications team, Kelly leads the strategy for us to further the conversation and inspire change within our networks and online platforms. In her role, she oversees the marketing, branding, design and public relations areas of the organization.
Kelly has extensive experience in both patient engagement and provider relationship-building. In her career, she has designed multimedia programs that empower people with chronic conditions to make informed decisions about their healthcare. Additionally, Kelly has worked with sickle cell experts across the US to create and refine tools that promote options for pain management.
Kelly received her Master's degree in Health Communications from Northwestern University in 2015. She was in the inaugural class and still serves as an alumni ambassador for incoming students.
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Sally Turbyville, DrPH
Chief Research Officer
Sally joined the Sick Cells' team in 2017 after learning about the social disparities that impact the sickle cell community. Her ongoing experience and knowledge in the field of policy and research are extremely valuable to our organization and the sickle cell community. Sally is currently a Senior Fellow Quality Policy and Research at the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA). Her career in health policy has focused on the development, implementation, and evaluation of quality programs and measures used to inform decision-makers about the value of healthcare services. She has an extensive experience using data analytics to inform policy and how policy impacts quality of care and outcomes.
Prior to CHA, Dr. Turbyville was the Managing Director at IMPAQ International, LLC where she built and led a health policy and quality program. At IMPAQ, she was responsible for the execution and oversight of two large national CMS programs that were in response to the Affordable Care Act. Sally also spent nine years at the National Committee for Quality Assurance. Her 9-year tenure at NCQA included leadership of NCQA’s research activities. While at NCQA, Sally led the development and implementation of the nation’s first set of national standard health plan efficiency and resource use measures.
Sally received her Ph.D. in Health Policy and a Master’s of Science in Health Policy at The George Washington (GW) University. She is also a part-time faculty member at GW, where she teaches graduate students courses focusing on effective health promotion planning. She received a Masters of Arts in economics/econometrics from the University of Arizona.
In her role as a senior executive, Sally oversees the research and policy division of Sick Cells where she leads our organization’s efforts throughout research and projects implementation.
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Amanda Vassall is a Communications Specialist for Sick Cells. She is a Purdue University alumai and focused her education on PR and marketing. Amanda signed on with Sick Cells in February 2016 as an intern where she developed passion for working with people in the sickle cell community. Her role has grown tremendously over the years as she continues to learn more about the sickle cell community through research and engagement. Amanda works with Sick Cells’ social media, writes the monthly newsletter, and coordinates fundraisers and events. Outside of Sick Cells, Amanda is a Community Manager for the platform oneSCDvoice.
Growing up, she remembers Marqus’ creative mind and how passionate he was about sharing his story of sickle cell. She hopes to help more people share their stories and have their voices heard.
Sam Rodgers-Melnick, MT-BC is an Artistic Specialist for Sick Cells. Sam currently serves as a music therapist at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, OH specializing in the care of adults with SCD. As a clinician, Sam provides individualized music therapy services to adults with SCD to address pain, coping, transition to adult care, and other psychosocial concerns.
As a researcher, Sam investigates how music can be used to improve pain management, transition outcomes, and quality of life in individuals with SCD. Sam has developed several new programs and technologies for adults, including:
1. The Seidman Studio, a mobile recording studio complete with electronic drums, keyboard, guitar, microphones, audio interfaces, speakers, and headphones for use with adults throughout the hospital.
2. The BEATS (Build. Educate. Advance. Transition in. Sickle Cell Disease) Program to address health challenges faced by adolescents/young adults (AYA) with sickle cell disease during the transition to adult medical care.
3. Specialized music used in a randomized control trial to address acute pain in adults with sickle cell disease.
Sam grew up outside Pittsburgh, PA and attended Duquesne University. He has presented on his at multiple conferences and conventions including the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA) Convention and the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research (FSCDR) Meeting. Sam is excited to be able to add his talents to the Sick Cells organization by contributing music, art, creativity, and ideas. Sam hopes to use these artistic mediums to advocate for individuals with sickle cell disease, improve policy, and empower individuals with sickle cell disease to share their stories and inspire others.
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Dan is Sick Cell's Digital Media Strategist and Web Designer. He brings experience from B2C digital environments to help support Sick Cells important mission. Dan has been inspired by the stories of the Sickle Cell Disease community and has committed his work to help address some of the disparities that this group faces.