Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is the world's most prevalent congenital bleeding disorder, affecting between 0.8 % and 1.3% of the entire population. To better bridge the gap in VWD education, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Hemophilia Treatment Center established the von Willebrand Academy for Latin America. The program has returned for its second year with its fall session, after being postponed because of the pandemic.
Led by Fernando F. Corrales-Medina, M.D., medical co-director of the Pediatric Hemophilia Program, the von Willebrand Academy is supported by Octapharma Inc. The series provides hands-on academic workshops for Latin American physicians while focusing on the most relevant and trending topics in VWD, and featured contributions from Miller School faculty members and invited speakers from other prestigious academic institutions.
"Less than 0.01% of the population is diagnosed with VWD and cannot receive adequate treatment," Dr. Corrales-Medina said. "These individuals remain at risk of suffering severe bleeding events, especially associated with menstrual periods, dental procedures, surgeries, pregnancy, and delivery. Our event provided educational workshops to better these statistics and health outcomes."
In this year's fall session, the Miller School hosted 12 physicians from Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile. All participants were peer-reviewed physicians consisting of hematologists and non-hematologists in OB-GYN, pediatrics, and surgery specialties.
Participating faculty from the Miller School were Joanna Davis, M.D., who presented "Low VWF Levels: Clinical Implications and Management"; Afshan Idrees, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., and David Andrews, M.D., who spoke on "Laboratory Diagnosis in VWD"; and Judith Simms-Cendan, M.D., and Michael Paidas, M.D., professor and chair, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, who teamed up for a presentation on "Women with VWD and Their Challenges: Menorrhagia and Pregnancy and Childbirth."
"Selected participants received state-of-the-art training focused on the physiology of the von Willebrand disease factor, such as clinical characteristics, diagnosis, and treatment of VWD — all within the University of Miami Hemophilia Treatment Center premises," said Dr. Corrales-Medina, who also presented on "A Global Initiative to Raise Awareness in VWD."
World-class external experts also contributed to the session. Nathan Connell, M.D., from Harvard Medical School, discussed new recommendations made by three major international academic societies to properly diagnose and treat patients with VWD. Jill Johnsen, M.D., from the University of Washington, presented her work on advancing the genetic diagnosis of VWD. Jonathan Roberts, M.D., from the University of Illinois at Peoria, reviewed the latest trends in VWD clinical diagnosis and the utility of the bleeding assessment tools.
Apart from educating physicians on the disease, Dr. Corrales-Medina is positioning the Miller School as a leader in VWD, as seen in his collaborative work on vwdtest.com. The site was launched in 2019 and is available in eight languages, serving as part of a global initiative to raise awareness and improve the diagnosis of VWD. Consumers, including physicians and those seeking more insight into VWD, can access the site's educational resources, take an online bleeding self-assessment tool, and receive diagnostic support if a score suggestive of a bleeding disorder is shown.
The von Willebrand Academy for Latin America is set to return in spring 2023, and Dr. Corrales-Medina aims to bring more non-hematology physicians to increase awareness of VWD among their own specialties. In addition, plans to implement a similar program for young physicians and those in training here in the U.S. are also in the works.
"Based on received feedback, all attendees expressed their sincere appreciation for the learning experience and opportunity," Dr. Corrales-Medina said. "They were particularly thankful for the hands-on workshop they participated in with our special coagulation laboratory team, where they could understand and see how the different laboratory techniques are performed and used to properly diagnose VWD, something particularly challenging in Latin America."