A Fellow of the United Kingdom Royal College of Pathologists and West African College of Physicians, Iheanyi Okpala is a Professor and the Head of Haematology/Immunology Department in University of Nigeria; and a consultant haematologist to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. In the past 26 years, he has worked on the biological basis of individual variation in the severity of SCD, the contribution of intercellular adhesion molecules to SCD-related blood vessel occlusion, the role of omega-3 fatty acids in ameliorating the disease, clinical trials of new treatments for SCD, and the translation of basic science research findings to the clinical care of patients. His experience and leadership in medical research, education and training span the national and international arena. Among other roles in previous research, he was the Principal Investigator in the original study of the relationship between the severity of SCD and expression of selectins by leukocytes; the clinical trial of deferasirox for iron chelation in SCD at the St. Thomas’ Hospital site, University of London, United Kingdom; the collaborative study in Africa, Europe and North America on the effect of genomic variants of L-selectin on the phenotype of SCD, the pilot trial of omega-3 fatty acids as treatment of SCD in University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital; and the trial of multimodal therapy of SCD in the same institution.
Professor Okpala directs the Haematology Residency Programme in University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, and is extensively involved in undergraduate medical education. He ran the Annual Haemoglobinopathy Course in London attended by about 450 participants and resource persons over 7 years; and runs the Haematology School annual course in the University of Nigeria. A Visiting Professor, External Examiner or Guest Lecturer to several universities or professional bodies across the world, he co-ordinates the multi-disciplinary team of experts in the Forum for Advancement of Research, Awareness and Treatment of Sickle Cell Disease in Africa (FARATA). He is the Editor and contributor of 7 chapters to a multi-authored postgraduate textbook on SCD and Thalassaemia published in 2004 by Blackwell Science, Oxford, United Kingdom: Practical Management of Haemoglobinopathies. He is also Co-editor and contributed, among 7 other chapters, the discussion of SCD and Thalassaemia in another textbook authored by an international consortium of over 20 experts in blood diseases: Synopsis of Hematology published in 2010 by CreateSpace, Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Professor Okpala is the Foundation President of the Haematology and Oncology Society of Africa (HOSA).