Hematology Oncology: Elliott Vichinsky, MD


Elliott Vichinsky, MD
Division Chief, Hematology/Oncology

Medical School: State University of New York Downstate, NY

Residency: Pediatrics, University Hospital/Children's Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center, WA

Fellowship: Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children's Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center, WA

Senior Research Fellow: Department of Pediatrics and Medicine, University of Washington, WA

Board Certification: Pediatric Hematology/Oncology


Elliott Vichinsky, MD diagnoses and treats children with blood disorders, cancers and tumors. He founded and directs the largest hemoglobinopathy center of sickle cell disease and thalassemia in North America. The center is dedicated to developing therapy to treat and cure the 200,000 infants born worldwide each year with sickle cell or thalassemia. He has been instrumental in implementing newborn screening programs for blood diseases in California and throughout the world. He is working with the World Health Organization in studying the worldwide public health problem of thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

Dr. Vichinsky was responsible for the development of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program, which has cured hundreds of children who had sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and various cancers. He has developed techniques that make blood safer for chronically transfused patients. These patients often suffer from iron overload as a result of either transfusion therapy or genetic mutations. Iron overload causes thousands of deaths each year. Dr. Vichinsky has been an international leader in developing drugs to remove excess iron and non-invasive equipment to measure iron in the body.

Awarded the Outstanding Career Scientist Award by Children’s, Dr. Vichinsky has been a leader investigating novel drugs that turn on hemoglobin-producing genes which enable sickle cell disease and thalassemia patients to produce their own healthy blood. He has authored and co-authored more than 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals, four books, and is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. He has been the principal investigator on more than 40 major research projects and has given countless presentations around the world about blood disorders. Dr. Vichinsky can discuss the latest advances in hematology, blood disorders such as sickle cell and thalassemia, transfusion medicine and iron overload.

Compelling Fact

Our hospital offers new, cutting edge technology in the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric medical conditions. UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland is one of four places in the world with a SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interface Device) that can accurately non-invasively determine the body’s iron. We are one of only a handful of hospitals in the nation using special software technology (T2*- pronounced tee-two-star) in combination with our Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) machine to safely measure iron levels in a child’s heart. Children and adults can suffer from iron overload in the heart and liver.

Sources: Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland


  • Bleeding disorders
  • Pediatric cancers

Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Bone marrow contains blood-producing cells that originate in the spongy center of bones. A portion of these blood-producing cells can be collected from a donor who shares the same transplantation characteristics or ‘HLA-type’ as that of the child receiving the transplant. Before the bone marrow transplant procedure, the recipient’s bone marrow cells are destroyed by radiation and/or chemotherapy. The destroyed cells are then replaced with the donor’s healthy bone marrow cells.

Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a serious condition in which the red blood cells become sickle-shaped, clump up and block blood flow in the blood vessels that lead to the limbs and organs of the body. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage. Patients with severe sickle cell anemia normally require monthly blood transfusions to survive.

Thalassemia is a condition caused by a lower than normal number of red blood cells or not enough hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein, in red blood cells. People who have thalassemia can have mild or severe anemia. Patients with severe thalassemia normally require monthly blood transfusions to survive.

Iron Overload
Iron overload occurs in sickle cell and thalassemia patients who undergo frequent blood transfusions. The treatment results in the accumulation of too much iron in the body. The body can not release iron naturally. Excess amounts can end up in the heart and liver and lead to organ damage. Sickle cell and thalassemia patients must be monitored closely and treated with specific drugs to avoid iron overload.

Professional Achievements

  • Oakland Magazine Best East Bay Doctors 2009-2010 (nat'l survey)
  • Medical Director, National Cooley’s Anemia Foundation
  • Director, Northern California Thalassemia Center and the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
  • Chair, NIH Thalassemia Clinical Research Network
  • Adjunct professor of pediatrics, UCSF
  • Co-chair, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute bio-iron program
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California
  • Miracle Maker Award, Children’s Miracle Network

Professional Organizations

  • Member, American Federation of Clinical Research
  • Member, American Society of Gene Therapy
  • Member, American Society of Hematology
  • Member, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
  • Member, American Pediatric Society
  • Member, Society of Pediatric Research

Appointment & Referral Information

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