It helps to have Friends in the fight against prematurity

Published on June 7th, 2019 by Christina Echegaray.

Summer 2019

In 2010, Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt set an ambitious goal: to commit $1 million to combat prematurity.

The group’s gift would benefit the Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Prematurity Fund, with the goal of giving the tiniest newborns the best possible start in life. The contribution has already helped the hospital reduce antibiotic use among premature infants, increase the use of breast milk to feed babies with very low birthweights, and reduce unplanned displacement of breathing tubes.

“As a Friends member, I’m constantly amazed to see the long list of support our volunteers have provided Children’s Hospital through the organization’s 47-year history,” said Vera Lee, Friends president. “The emphasis of the Friends organization is to continue making an impact on various departments and patient populations across Children’s Hospital. Although past Friends leaders worked to establish the Prematurity Research Endowment Fund, it’s heartwarming to know that the research continues making an impact on the tiniest of patients.”

The Friends organization has been a vital partner with Vanderbilt since 1972. Thousands of volunteers have provided countless hours of service, advocacy, public awareness and significant funding in support of patients and their families at Children’s Hospital.

Friends established this prematurity fund to further its mission of supporting the needs of patients and their families in the hospital and preventing the need for hospital care.

Tennessee currently has one of the nation’s highest rates of premature births. One in nine infants in the state is born too soon, according to the March of Dimes annual report card, which gives Tennessee a ‘D’ grade. Preterm birth is defined as a live birth before 37 completed weeks’ gestation.

The Friends Prematurity Fund has been used to develop and grow a multidisciplinary neonatal quality improvement team at Children’s Hospital. It also supported advanced training for the hospital’s lead quality improvement neonatal nurse practitioner Mary Eva Dye.

Through increased educational awareness programs, the quality improvement team has documented several successes. Among them, the Breastfeeding Quality Improvement Team recently reported a 23 percent increase in the number of very low birthweight infants discharged home on breast milk, largely due to a new initiative called NICU Breast Friends, a lactation support group.

“This work is so very important for our patients and their families and goes a long way to fulfilling the mission of Friends,” said Susan Guttentag, MD, director of the Mildred Stahlman Division of Neonatology for Children’s Hospital and Julia Carell Stadler Professor of Pediatrics. “The Friends’ support of our quality improvement team helps us to find new ways to optimize care of our patients and their families.”

– by Christina Echegaray