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This article is an excerpt of University of Maryland Rounds, which features clinical and research updates from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland Medical Center.

Pediatric Hematology Program Boasts Personalized, Comprehensive Care

From the most common blood disorders to the most obscure, the University of Maryland Children's Hospital Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology prides itself on providing a private practice feel in an academic setting. The recent launch of a hematology/genetics practice —one of only a handful in the nation — extends the program's tradition of personalized care.

About 30 young patients come to the University of Maryland each week for hematology care, with total annual visits, including regular follow-ups, exceeding 1,000. Aside from cancer, the division's team of specialists treats patients up to age 21 presenting with blood diseases ranging from various types of anemia to sickle cell disease, bleeding disorders, stroke and other clotting problems, and bone marrow failure syndromes, among others.

"We get a lot of questions about clotting problems or bleeding problems where patients bleed more heavily than they should or there is a family history of clots," explains Teresa York, M.D., head of the division and an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine. "We are trained to deal with all the problems in the blood cell system which includes, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets."

UMMC's pediatric hematology patients hail from a broad region that spans from West Virginia to the eastern shore of Maryland, according to Regina Macatangay, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Maryland School of Medicine. Part of the program's reach is due to a higher population of patients in the area with sickle cell anemia, an inherited disorder more common in those of African descent.

"Some of the disorders we see are pretty common, but without a hematology specialist overseeing the patient, they often go undiagnosed or underdiagnosed for a long time," says Dr. Macatangay.

Hematology/Genetics Practice Unique in Field

One of the offerings that sets UM's Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology apart is its hematology/genetics practice, which was launched in late 2013 and is one of only a handful of its kind in the United States. Combining the expertise of hematologists, a genetic counselor and a geneticist, the practice operates during one comprehensive day per month where young patients and their families are evaluated for inherited — and sometimes exceedingly rare — blood disorders.

"We sit down with families and talk about what's going on, laying out their treatment options," explains Dr. Macatangay, co-director of the hematology/genetics practice, which saw about 35 patients in its first 15 months of existence. "In general, it's very hard to find a combined hematology and genetics program outside of a cancer center. There are very few comparable programs … probably only three or four nationwide."

Patients benefit from the personalized atmosphere that Dr. York characterizes as a "private practice feel in an academic setting." She also states that her division addresses the issues of not only the patient but also their caregivers as this is essential to a successful outcome and treatment fr their disease.

"I personally call all these patients back with test results and reach out to their primary care doctors so they know their patients are plugged into us," notes Dr. Macatangay. "Patients feel at home here. The rapport we've developed with these patients has been huge, and I think they really appreciate the personalized care."

In addition to the downtown practice, hematology patients are seen at the outpatient practices in Harford County, Bel Air and Anne Arundel County, Hanover. For appointments, please call 410-328-2808.