The National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) acquired the papers of Charles F. Whitten, M.D., distinguished professor of pediatrics and associate dean of medicine emeritus at Detroit’s Wayne State University. Whitten passed away in 2008.
Whitten served as president of the National Association for Sickle Cell Disease, now known as the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, where he developed educational materials and approaches to problems stemming from the disease, particularly psychosocial support for patients.
The acquisition is an outgrowth of the James B. Herrick Symposium on sickle cell disease, which was held in 2010 on the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first case report on sickle cell disease. The library was one of the event’s sponsors.
To commemorate the transfer of the papers, the library hosted a lecture on Whitten on February 2 on what would have been his 90th birthday. The lecture was given by Whitten’s daughter Dr. Wanda Whitten-Shurney, physician and CEO of the SCDAA’s Michigan Chapter. Sonja Banks, current president and COO of SCDAA, introduced her.
In addition to his work with the association, Whitten served as chief of pediatrics at Detroit Receiving Hospital. He was the first African-American to head a department in a Detroit hospital, and was among the founders of the African Medical Education Fund, which offered financial assistance to any qualified African-American or African medical student who agreed to provide medical service in Africa.
Whitten also founded the post baccalaureate program at Wayne’s School of Medicine, which was a national model for the inclusion of under-represented minority students in schools of medicine, as well as revamping the school’s curriculum. He received the school’s inaugural Pathfinders in Medicine Award in 2000.
The Pathfinder award was only one of the many recognitions Whitten’s work received in his lifetime. The Black Medical Association established the Charles F. Whitten Lifetime Achievement Award and presented Dr. Whitten with the first award. He was also honored with The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s Legacy Award for his 21 years in its leadership and a Special Recognition Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges.