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AAMC Briefing Highlights Research Advances for High-Risk Newborns

September 26, 2014— The AAMC in conjunction with the March of Dimes held a Sept. 23 congressional briefing, “Neonatal ICUs, NIH, and Academic Medicine: Advancing Care for the Most Vulnerable Newborns,” to highlight how collaborations between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and medical schools and teaching hospitals have helped advance neonatal care.

The briefing featured Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at NIH; Jeffrey S. Gerdes, M.D., associate chairman, department of pediatrics; chief medical officer for network development; associate chief, division of neonatology, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP); and associate professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine; and Michelle Stevens, a March of Dimes volunteer and mother of a micro-preemie.

Dr. Guttmacher discussed NICHD’s research portfolio and described how specific research projects have informed and improved clinical care for high-risk newborns. “It’s wonderful to be able to come and talk to you about how this research really has made a difference in truly countless individuals’ lives,” he said.

During his presentation, Dr. Guttmacher noted several “promising” areas of research where he hopes NICHD-funded researchers can design interventions to help prevent or mitigate any health problems in neonates. One of these involves the placenta, which he described as the “least understood and arguably the most important” organ, as it plays a critical role in neonatal health and also impacts long-term health. Research in these complex areas, he noted, “can only be done through federal support” and “can only be done by having multiple investigators in many academic centers working together on it.”

Dr. Gerdes explained the intersection between research, clinical care, and education at the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals. He also described the continuum of research, from basic research to clinical intervention.

Academic medical centers, he said, are the ideal place for this research to take place because of their infrastructure, the synergy between their three missions, and the multidisciplinary nature of the institutions.

Dr. Gerdes noted one of the challenges ahead is that premature babies face a host of complex health issues later in life and there is a need for continued research. However, he added that “complex medical issues take complex answers and sufficient funding,” and there is always the risk of reduced funding for medical research.

Ms. Stevens shared her personal experience with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) as a mother of a “micro-preemie” born three months early and weighing a mere 1 pound 8 ounces. She expressed her gratitude for the interdisciplinary care team in the NICU, and noted that her daughter, now 20 months, continues to receive care from a team of physicians and other health professionals.

She stated, “I know that Emily would not be here today if it were not for the miracle workers in our NICU… or without research or the medical technology that exists today. It’s my hope that Congress will continue to provide vital funding for research at the NIH and academic medical centers so that babies born early do survive and lead healthy lives, just like Emily.” 


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559

Tannaz Rasouli
Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Telephone: 202-828-0525


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806