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25 Year Celebration - The Gaston and Porter Health Improvement Center - 2022


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Woman's Day Celebrates 17th Annual Red Dress Awards honors Dr Gayle Porter and Dr. Marilyn Gaston

Honorees Dr. Gayle Porter and Dr. Marilyn Gaston speak onstage as Woman's Day Celebrates 17th Annual Red Dress Awards on February 04, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Women's Day)

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Celebrating a Sickle Cell Research Pioneer | Cincinnati Children's
Cincinnati Children's

Celebrating a Sickle Cell Research Pioneer | Cincinnati Children's Marilyn Gaston, MD Still a Frontline Fighter Against Sickle Cell Disease At 77, Marilyn Gaston, MD, is a petite ball of fire. Thirty years ago, she published a landmark study proving the effectiveness of penicillin in extending the lives of children with sickle cell disease. At a symposium outlining the past, present and future of research and treatment for the disease, Gaston clearly showed she hasn't lost her passion for helping children. Gaston first became interested about sickle cell disease as an intern. “I was working in the ED when a little kid came in with a swollen hand,” she recalls. “I suspected abuse and decided to admit the child. Of course, this put the parents under suspicion. “A second-year resident told me to take a look at the child’s blood smear. I did. It was sickle cell. I felt so terrible that I had made the wrong call. I wanted to learn everything I could then about sickle cell disease.” Her drive led her to establish the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center at Cincinnati Children’s in 1973 — with the help of Cathryn Buford, co-founder of the Sickle Cell Awareness Group, and Alvin Mauer, MD, director, Hematology. It was one of the first 10 sickle cell centers the NIH funded in the US. Gaston’s biggest contributions to the fight against sickle cell disease are: 1. Her program to evaluate cord blood to detect sickle cell disease in infants. Early detection was the key to survival, since many babies with sickle cell disease are prone to contracting overwhelming bacterial infections, leading to rapid and often fatal septic shock. Gaston pushed for mandatory screening for sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait. 2. The double-blind study she conducted helped push the expected lifespan of patients with sickle cell from 19 years of age to 40+ years. She gave oral penicillin daily one group of patients , compared to a control group, which received a placebo. There were three deaths in the placebo group and none in the study group. The study group also saw an 85-percent reduction of pneumococcus-related complications. Gaston has distinguished herself as the first African American woman to direct a Public Health Service bureau. She also served as Assistant Surgeon General and Rear Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service. But even as she received several standing ovations from Cincinnati Children's and University of Cincinnati staff, she was quick to share the praise. “Nobody does anything by themselves,” she said. “All of the training I received right here at home prepared me for the challenges I faced. And all of the things I’ve accomplished are because of the help I received from everyone else. We can’t lose sight of the importance of what patients and families teach us. And please, don’t lose sight of how important you are to the work we still have to do.”
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