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The discoveries, concepts and promise
of curing sickle cell disease

More than sixty years ago, entertainer Danny Thomas envisioned a hospital that would treat children regardless of race, color, creed or their family's ability to pay. A facility where research would shine light into the darkness.


The Path to a Cure



Black and white photo of Dr. Lemuel Diggs and two other men from the 60s.

St. Jude presents Lemuel Diggs, MD, with a $10,000 grant for his work on sickle cell disease. Diggs subsequently publishes the first comprehensive study of sickle cell disease and its impact on the African-American population.


February 4, 1962

The hospital opens in Memphis, Tennessee, before a crowd of 9,000 people.

St. Jude opens during a turbulent era in American history. The star-shaped building designed by renowned African-American architect Paul Revere Williams immediately becomes the region's first fully integrated hospital. The integration of St. Jude also extends to the Memphis hotel industry. In order to house St. Jude families, a facility must agree to offer housing to anyone, regardless of race.

A large crowd gathered to watch Danny Thomas unveil the first Statue of St. Jude Thaddius in 1962.
Dr. Rudolph Jackson using a microscope at St. Jude in the 1960s across the table from another doctor.


African-American physician Rudolph Jackson, MD, helps establish the sickle cell program at St. Jude.



A St. Jude nurse weighs a St. Jude patient in 1970.

St. Jude launches the first major effort to understand the lifelong progression of sickle cell disease.

Former patient Kimberlin holding a framed black and white photo of herself as a teenage patient at St. Jude.

Former St. Jude patient Kimberlin Wilson-George



A St. Jude cancer patient with both sickle cell disease and cancer undergoes a bone marrow transplant to target her cancer.

However, the procedure also cures her sickle cell disease and she becomes the first person in the world cured of sickle cell disease through a bone marrow transplant.  That discovery occurs because St. Jude is committed to studying multiple pediatric diseases.



The St. Jude sickle cell program is named one of 10 Comprehensive Sickle Cell Centers by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.



“We must do what others cannot do.”


St. Jude President and CEO James Downing, MD, unveils a bold plan for saving the lives of children around the globe — extending clinical research for sickle cell beyond symptom management to cures. 

Four St. Jude sickle cell patients.


A Sickle Cell Disease Transition Clinic is created to help 18-year-olds make the leap from St. Jude to adult-care facilities of their choice.



St. Jude supporter, Glenda Newell Harris examines the St. Jude ABC Wall.

St. Jude is the first health care organization to receive the Legacy Grant from The Links Foundation Inc., to support the advancement of sickle cell disease research.



  • St. Jude leads the Sickle Cell Clinical Research and Intervention Program (SCCRIP), which studies how sickle cell disease progresses over time, from childhood into adulthood, and how we can improve the quality of life for sickle cell disease patients while we continue to search for cures.
  • Although a bone marrow transplant is a potential “cure” for sickle cell disease, it is not an easy cure, and it has many complications. That is why St. Jude continues to research alternate approaches to cure sickle cell disease.
  • St. Jude faculty perform innovative laboratory research on sickle cell disease and other blood disorders. In these labs, St. Jude not only conducts basic research, but also uses translational research to bridge the gap from the lab to the bedside.

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