Morton to help lead blood disorders treatment efforts
January 12, 2017 | Dagny Stuart
Colleen Morton, M.D., has joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) as section chief of Classical Hematology, a specialty also known as “benign hematology” because it covers all blood disorders that are not cancer.
In the newly created position, Morton oversees VUMC’s treatment of patients with bleeding disorders like von Willebrand disease, blood clotting disorders including deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary emboli, abnormal blood counts like anemia, low platelets and low white blood counts, and inherited disorders like sickle cell disease or hemochromatosis.
Morton said she was drawn to the specialty because “blood disorders were always fascinating. It’s like a whodunit mystery, and you have to figure out what happened. It’s like an investigation. It’s the discovery I enjoy. You also have to accept that sometimes you don’t know why something happened, but you can always come up with a plan to treat it.”
Prior to joining VUMC, Morton spent 13 years at HealthPartners, a private practice organization in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she most recently served as medical director of Clinical Coagulation at Regions Hospital. The hospital is affiliated with the University of Minnesota, where she was an assistant professor in the Clinical Scholar Track at the medical school.
Morton said her role there could be described as systems-based hematology, working on all hematological issues throughout a health care system that included six hospitals and more than 50 outpatient clinics.
“The goal was to ensure that no matter where you were in the system you got the same care for your blood problem. So, if you had bleeding and you were on the drug Warfarin, no matter which hospital you were in you would get exactly the same care,” Morton said.
This involved collaboration among departments, including the emergency department, blood bank, labs, cardiology, neurosurgery and the ICU.
Morton said her goal at VUMC is to work throughout the network to improve hematological health.
“What I hope to do is develop guidelines and protocols for patient care, and also create educational documents that are simple and easy to read on an accessible site for everybody in the network.”
She is excited about VUMC’s planned adoption of the Epic computer software system.
“I’d like to use Epic to build order sets that make it easy to manage the patient correctly, get the correct lab studies and do the right follow-up,” Morton said.
She is also dedicated to improving patient health.
“There are many women who are walking around on a daily basis very anemic because they’re low on iron and they haven’t been treated properly. It’s a simple thing, but it affects life.
“So part of my goal is to work with primary care and obstetrics and gynecology clinicians in order to recognize common problems that can easily be treated,” Morton said.
Born in South Africa, Morton first visited the United States after winning a speech competition in high school. The prize was a six-week visit to Minnesota during the winter where she stayed with a Rotary family.
After starting medical school at the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, Johannesburg, South Africa, she took an elective course at the University of Minnesota and stayed with that same family. Based on her work, she was offered a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Minnesota. She also completed a fellowship in Hematology and Medical Oncology as well as a master’s degree in Clinical Research.
Morton is married with two children, and she is already happy with the move to Nashville, where the weather is much like her native South Africa. The family enjoys traveling and she describes her children as “foodies” who like to sample exotic foods during their trips.