Wonder Drake, MD: Understanding the Progression Patterns of Sarcoidosis


In this interview, Dr. Wonder Drake shares physician resources and explains the unique presentation of sarcoidosis and how it varies by region.

Sarcoidosis is a rare disease that's characterized by the growth of granulomas, or collections of tiny inflammatory cells, throughout the body. Typically, granulomas present in a patient's lungs and lymph nodes. Among other organs, they've also been known to affect the eyes, skin and heart.

Wonder Drake, MD, is a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), and a member of the Foundation for Sarcoidosis (FSR) Research Scientific Advisory Board.

In an interview with HCPLive, she explained how incidence and presentation of sarcoidosis can vary by region.

In terms of worldwide incidence, the Netherlands has the highest rate of the disease, followed by Japan and the southeastern US. Drake's focused her career on deepening the understanding of why some patients with the disease progress while others don't.

"Even though the highest incidence is in the Netherlands, they're also the group that is more likely to resolve their disease," she said. "And then the Japanese, their disease is more sarcoidosis of the eyes and the heart, more so than sarcoidosis of the lungs and the skin, which is predominantly what we see here in the United States."

The incidience of the disease within the US falls among African Americans, particularly African American women. According to Drake, this suggests that not only are genetics an important factor, but hormone status is too.

In 2016, the Sarcoidosis Center of Excellence was established at VUMC and has been under Drake's direction since. She's also a member of the World Association for Sarcoidosis and Other Granulomatous Disorders (WASOG) executive committee where she serves as associate chief editor.

Living with a rare disease, or treating one, is associated with various challenges. Overcoming a lack of awareness is a fundamental obstacle surrounding sarcoidosis. Drake thinks the creation of networks within the field, like the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR), is an important resource for providers and patients.

"One of the things that I've been really impressed with the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research is that they've done a really good job of connecting general practitioners, or even specialists not familiar with sarcoidosis, to providers who are very comfortable taking care of patients with sarcoidosis in each state," Drake said.

"So, no matter where you are," she continued, "they have a listing and you can find providers that are quite comfortable taking care of patients with sarcoidosis."

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