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Improving Men's Health Care.

A sort of knowing smile accompanies Dr Belinda Morrison's revelation that she has a particular interest in Andrology — the study of male sexual dysfunction. "I don't know why," says the young lady who some friends and patients refer to as 'Doctor B' Seriously, though, she does know.

"I'm particularly interested in that because of sickle cell disease in Jamaica," she tells All Woman. "A lot of people don't realise that it's very, very common in Jamaica. The disorder is seen in one in every 300 births in Jamaica and one in every 150 births has the full blown disease."

The gravity of the problem, her desire to treat the disorder and inform Jamaican men about its dangers pushed Dr Morrison to submit a research paper on the disease at this year's American Urological Association conference in Washington, DC in May.
The result was that Morrison emerged as the only Jamaican of 20 doctors whose research in the Andrology category was selected for presentation.

After the presentation, Morrison, a young, bright Wolmer's Girls School alumni, was declared the winner earning praise from many of the world's top urologists, among them Professor Wayne Hellstrom, head of Urology and Andrology at Tulane University Health Sciences Centre; and Professor Lawrence Ross, former head of the American Urological Association and former head of the Urology Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
"It's an accolade; really a stripe on your shoulder, because receiving a prize there is a big deal. It's a validation among your peers at the highest level," she says.

"I was particularly happy because it was a study which was funded by the University of the West Indies," she adds, explaining that the sponsorship came from the institution's New Initiative Grant.

Dr Morrison says she and her research team — Wendy Madden, Suzanne Soares-Wynter, and Marvin Reid — spent six months recruiting volunteers. They eventually chose 100 men, half of whom had had sickle cell disease.

"We took blood from them and we measured the blood... we did the blood cholesterol levels, we did the blood count, and then we did a bone scan, a whole body scan," she explains. "It's amazing; it tells you the percentage body fat that you have in different areas of the body; the strength and density of your bones, and then we basically just compared them."
The title of the paper, Dr Morrison says, was 'Hypogonadism, bone mineral composition and lipid abnormality in adult male patients with sickle cell disease'.
Her research concluded that Hypogonadism is common in sickle cell disease and is due to primary testicular failure.

The study also concluded that adult males with sickle cell disease had lower testosterone values, more wasting, lower bone mineral density and lipid levels.

"Basically, men with sickle cell disease are at risk for a variety of disorders affecting their fertility," Morrison explains, adding that this year was not the first time that she had submitted a research paper to the conference.
"In 2009, I had actually sent a paper to that same conference and it was accepted," she reveals.

At the time, she says, she was looking at Priapism (a prolonged erection), which she describes as "a very horrible disorder" that men with sickle cell get.

"It's not an erection to enjoy; it can last for hours and hours and hours," says Dr Morrison.
"The problem with it is that if patients go to their doctors after a prolonged period, when the erection goes down — whether naturally or by way of surgery — they can become impotent, and a lot of men with sickle cell become impotent," she adds.

Asked if men were comfortable sharing with her the fact that they are impotent, Dr Morrison said 'yes', especially since she started a men's health clinic at the Sickle Cell Unit at the UWI.

"Once every month men can come and see me, free of charge, if they have sickle cell disease," she said. "What we're trying to do is to build and improve on the care of men."
MORRISON... what we're trying to do is to build and improve on the care of men.