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community advocates

Florence Neal Cooper Smith

Community Advocate
MCV Foundation
1228 East Broad Street
Box 980234
Richmond, Virginia, United States

Florence Neal Cooper Smith has been fighting to end sickle cell disease for more than 40 years. She is a tireless leader in the effort to raise awareness of sickle cell disease, both on a regional and national level.

A native of Virginia, Cooper-Smith first learned about the existence of SCD when she was just a child back in the early 1940s. While waiting for a doctor’s appointment, she picked up a book and started reading. That book was all about sickle cell disease, and it ignited a passion within her to help those who lived with it. Since the ’60s, Cooper-Smith has been working to raise awareness of sickle cell not only in her local communities, but also state-wide and nationwide. Known as the “mother of sickle cell in Virginia,” Cooper-Smith is also the first Black woman to have a professorship named after her.

She is a graduate of Virginia Union University and completed graduate studies in pathology at the MCV Campus of VCU. In 1969, she organized Richmond’s first city-wide survey to determine the extent of sickle cell awareness in surrounding areas, and in 1972, she founded the Virginia Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Program at MCV with Dr. Robert B. Scott, Sr. This ambitious campaign sought to educate the public about sickle cell anemia. Because of her efforts, Virginia now screens all newborns at birth for sickle cell disease.

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