The Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship was established at the VCU School of Medicine to foster aggressive, cutting edge reseach that will lead to discovering a cure for sickle cell disease. More than $250,000 has been raised for this professorship to date. The ultimate goal is to raise $1 million to establish an endowed Chair. In May 2014, Dr. Wally R. Smith was appointed as the inaugural holder of the Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship in the Division of General Internal Medicine. Dr. Smith is a nationally recognized expert on sickle cell disease and has been leading the fight in Virginia to develop methods of treatment, assist in care management and continuous research. 

The Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professorship is the first such professorship to be named for an African American woman in the United States. Florence Neal Cooper Smith is a pioneer of sickle cell awareness, both regionally and nationally. A graduate of Virginia Union University, Smith completed graduate studies in Pathology at the Medical College of Virginia Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. 

In 1969, Smith organized Richmond's first city-wide survey with the help of local civic, social and community organizations , to determine the extent of sickle cell awareness in the surrounding locations. In 1972,with the allotment of federal dollars for sickle cell programs, the lure of sickle cell led Smith and colleague, Dr. Robert B. Scott Sr. to found the innovative Virginia Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Program (VSCAAP) at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth university. This ambition campaignsought to educate and inform the general public about sickle cell anemia. Through Smith's efforts, Virginia now screens all newborns at birth for sickle cell. Since Smith's retirement in 1995, Sge remains active in volunteer activities related to sickle cell disease. 

What is sickle cell disease?

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take on Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder of the red blood cells for which there is still no cure. It causes symptoms  ranging from pain, to organ damage, to anemia. In the United States , sickle cell disease is most prevalent among African Americans, although it can be found in people of all races. About one in 12 African Americans carry the sickle cell trait, which means they are carriers of the disease. In addition, 1 of every 400 African Americans have sickle cell disease. People of Hispanic and Asian descent are also disproportionately affected by the disease. 


  • Sickle Cell Disease is inherited in the same way that people get the color of their eyes, skin and hair. 
  • A person with Sickle Cell Disease is born with it. 
  • People cannot catch Sickle Cell Disease from being around a person who has it
  • If both Parents carry the Sickle Cell trait there is a 25% chance with each pregnancy their child will inherit Sickle Cell Disease. 
  • Currently there is no cure. 
  • To date, the only help for Sickle Cell Disease is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.