Biree Andemariam ‘96
Meet Dr. Biree Andemariam, a hematology oncologist and JRF alumna who serves as Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Having earned an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, Dr. Andemariam received her Doctor of Medicine degree with research honors from Tufts University School of Medicine. As the world grapples with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Andemariam creates vital access to medical care, as the former Chief Medical Officer and current Vice Chair for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. Tackling an often-painful disease that affects the shape of blood cells making it difficult to provide blood flow to the body, the Boston native has long advocated for populations who frequently suffer in silence.
“When you look nationally at sickle cell anemia care, the treatment of adults has been poor and remains poor,” said Dr. Andemariam. “The silver lining of the pandemic is the adoption of telemedicine–the ability to have a medical visit remotely, usually from a patient’s home.”
Sickle Cell anemia occurs in 1 out of every 365 Black or African American births according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC also notes that about 1 in 13 Black or African American babies is born with the sickle cell trait (SCT) with 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American births carrying the trait.
“There are many things that make it difficult to access care — like transportation, time off of work, and having someone take care of your children,” she said. “We have a lot of people with the disease with established careers but a substantial amount are disabled. A lot of them end up living at or below the poverty line and are not able to carry out their educational and professional dreams.”
When reflecting on comprehensive care, Dr. Andemariam encourages people to think about the emotional impacts of surviving a pandemic. “Before the shutdown, sickle cell patients already dealt with a degree of isolation caused by chronic pain,” she shared. “They have been even more isolated during the pandemic.”
The mother of two teenage boys, Dr. Andemariam often redirects conversations to highlight the needs of others, which can be partially attributed to her years as a JRF Scholar. “One of the things that I remember the most is learning about Jackie Robinson’s commitment to the community and using his notoriety, platform, network, and success to help those who were less fortunate,” she reflects. “His emphasis on education and civil rights was important to instill in Scholars at a young age as we thought about how we would live our lives.”
When addressing communities that have been most impacted by the Covid pandemic, a common concern includes inadequate healthcare generally and the prevalence of pre-existing conditions. With global populations searching for answers on how to resume a life that once was, Dr. Andemariam urges those who can to , “Always remember to give back to the communities from which you’ve come and which you’ve observed to be disadvantaged.”
The Jackie Robinson Foundation is immensely proud to recognize Dr. Biree Andemariam as a stellar, ambassador of its rich legacy.