Faculty Directory

Vivien Sheehan, MD, PhD

Vivien Sheehan, MD, PhD headshot

Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist,
Director of Sickle Cell Translational Research,
Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

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Vivien Sheehan, MD, PhD joined Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics. She came to Georgia from Houston, where she was an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the division of Hematology/Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Sheehan earned a PhD in Biochemistry at Texas A&M university prior to attending medical school at Emory University School of Medicine. As a third-year medical student, she decided to devote her career to sickle cell patient care and research. In order to care for people of all ages with sickle cell disease (SCD), she completed an Internal Medicine/Pediatrics residency program at the University of Cincinnati; she then completed a self-designed combined Internal Medicine Hematology and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology fellowship in Memphis, completing the last year at Baylor College of Medicine, where she became faculty in 2012. Dr. Sheehan is board certified in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Internal Medicine Hematology.

The Sheehan laboratory uses genomics to unravel the mechanisms of globin switching and the pharmacogenomics of hydroxyurea in SCD, in order to develop new fetal hemoglobin inducing agents to treat people with sickle cell disease. Her work has led to a clinical trial of metformin as a fetal hemoglobin inducing agent in patients with hemoglobinopathies.  Dr. Sheehan has developed rheology biomarkers for use in assessing cure in gene-based therapy, and in collaboration with ELIAD, is developing them as tools to assess which therapy is best for each individual living with sickle cell disease, as part of precision medicine.

One of the most distressing aspect of sickle cell disease is that after years of episodic pain crises, usually 3-4 a year lasting up to 2 weeks, over half of patients begin to have pain every day. This chronic pain is often not relieved by morphine type medications, and may be the result of cells called microglia getting permanently turned on, sending the nerves a signal of tissue injury all the time, even when there is no sickle cell blockage causing lack of oxygen and tissue death. The Sheehan lab investigates genetic reasons for the development of chronic pain, and biomarkers to help distinguish chronic from acute pain, in collaboration with Emory and Georgia Tech based behavioral psychologists and neuroradiologists. The Sheehan Lab has also developed a cell-based assay to screen drug compounds that may be effective therapies to treat daily chronic pain in people with sickle cell disease.

Dr. Sheehan feels fortunate to return to Emory and work together with so many dedicated physicians, scientists and physician scientists. In addition to her research, she is privileged and honored to partner with Children’s to help provide excellent care to the pediatric and adolescent sickle cell disease community of Georgia.

In her spare time, you will find Dr. Sheehan gardening, reading, and practicing yoga, often with her husband and two sons. Although she grew up in New York, she is excited to call Atlanta her new home. 


Areas of interest:

  • Transition from pediatric to adult care
  • Chronic pain
  • Hyperhemolysis
  • Precision medicine
  • Clinical biomarker development


Education and Training:

  • Medical school: Emory University School of Medicine
  • Residency: University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center
  • Fellowship: Baylor College of Medicine/University of Tennessee/St Jude Children’s Research Hospital



  • American Academy of Pediatrics: Pediatric Hematology/Oncology 


Professional affiliations:

  • Liaison, Publications Committee, ASH Communications Committee, 2021-present
  • Member, ASH Publication Committee, 2019-present
  • Member, ASH Research Consortium Oversight Committee, 2018-present
  • Member, ASH SCD Clinical Trials Network Taskforce, 2017-2018
  • Member, ASH SCD Work Group on Research, 2016-2018
  • Member, Transcriptomics in Precision Medicine (TOPMed) SCD Working Group, 2015-present


Honors and Awards:

  • Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Texas A&M, 1999
  • Woodruff Scholarship, Thompson Medical School Scholarship, 2000-2004
  • Danielle Sherie Carey Memorial Award, 2012
  • ASH Abstract Achievement Award, 2012
  • Best of ASH Abstract Award, 2016
  • Young Investigator Award, BCM, 2020

Research Center(s)