Sharon Johnson

Sharon Johnson, a community health worker for Johns Hopkins who helps patients with siclkle cell disease, meets with Dr. M. Christopher Gibbons at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / August 19, 2012)

Trained in the basics of sickle cell, the West Baltimore native has a busy but varied schedule. On a typical day, she'll visit a couple of patients in their homes, explaining doctors' directions, checking blood pressure, offering appointment reminders, even sharing stories of her childhood to help establish trust.

Then she'll visit some in the hospital. "I don't stay long, but I'll hold their hand and listen," she says. "I let them know I'll come back soon. That may not decrease the pain, but it might make them feel a bit better inside."

In recent weeks, Johnson, a former Americorps volunteer, has babysat children, restored medication schedules, offered rides, referred patients to drug-rehab programs and shared her insights on patients with grateful hematologists. Her costs are covered by grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

"She's the modern equivalent of the old country doctor, but without the medical degree," said Gibbons, who strongly supports increased use of community health workers in an age when doctor visits can be pricier than ever.

Johnson is helping physicians and other health providers bring down barriers a little at a time.

"She works hard, and always has a big smile on her face," Lanzkron said. "That's healthy for everyone."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com



MORE INFORMATION



The Johns Hopkins Sickle Cell Infusion Center is in Room 136 of the Carnegie Building at 601 N. Wolfe St. Interested patients can learn more at hopkinsmedicine.org/Medicine/sickle, call the Hopkins sickle cell hotline at (443) 717-2198 or email iHOMES at iHOMES@jhmi.edu

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