By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — With mixed metaphors, Meharry Medical College and the Nashville Duffers Golf Association held a kickoff luncheon recently to announce their Sickle Cell Golf Tournament Corporate Challenge fundraising campaign.

“This will be our first corporate challenge,” Duffers Golf League President Alex Coure announced in a packed conference room on Jan. 24 when golfers and medical professionals documented their mutual cause with a letter to prospective donors.

“Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder causing red blood cells to change their shape into a banana shape or C- shape farm tool called a sickle,” said Dr. Maria del Pilar Aguinaga, co-director of Meharry’s Sickle Cell Center.

A red protein in blood carrying oxygen, the sickle hemoglobin, is responsible for the change in the red blood cell shape.

“This makes it difficult for the red blood cells to move through the small blood vessels in the body,” Dr. Aguinaga said. Making it harder for blood to deliver oxygen causes pain, fatigue and complications. “All Tennessee newborns are screened for the presence of sickle cell or other hemoglobin traits at birth,” Dr. Aguinaga said.” Positive screens for hemoglobin disorders are checked at the MSCC.

“Since 1988,” Coure said, “Duffers have sponsored annual golf tournaments in support of the center. We have contributed over $170,000.” The corporate challenge’s goal is “$50,000 to support diagnostic testing, education, community outreach, research and clinical care for sickle cell disease…

“We are reaching out … to solicit support for our golf tournament challenge scheduled for Thursday, May 25,” he said.

Business leaders are asked to contact Coure at (615) 293-4543 or, or Linda Witt, senior associate vice president for Meharry development, at (615) 327-6369 or, or write to Duffers Golf Association at P.O. Box 280871, Nashville, TN 37208.

While dignified and professional during medical explanations and about the cause, philanthropic golfers, medical professionals and staffers relaxed to talk about fundraising. “I like begging people for money,” said Audra Cox, senior development director at MMC.

People with a sickle cell disease, better known as sickle cell anemia, can live full lives and enjoy most of the activities like others, but an early step is realizing: the trait’s been inherited; and that couples about to have children can pass the condition to their child.

“Sickle cell still remains a problem,” Dr. Robert Mushi, co-director of MMCSCC. “It’s not going away. Now, it’s mostly a genetic problem.”

Newborns have been screened for decades. Screening middle age people is important.

“We can test, but a lot of people don’t know,” Dr. Mushi said. “We are contributing to the health of the people and we have support.”

MMC medical staffers applauded the duffers for continued support and golfers applauded medical professionals for their work.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...