March Of Dimes And New Jersey Celebrate 75 Years Of Life-Saving Achievements
Sayreville, New Jersey, April 04, 2013
March of Dimes, the leading non-profit organization for maternal and infant health, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and its ongoing work to help all babies get a healthy start in life. About 4 million babies are born in the United States each year (over 100,000 in New Jersey), and the March of Dimes has helped each and every one through research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. New Jersey has played a very important role during these 75 years.
The March of Dimes has launched a year-long celebration to honor its founder, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was born on January 30th 131 years ago. Affected by polio himself, FDR established the Foundation in 1938 to “lead, direct and unify” the fight against polio. In FDR’s day, polio was an epidemic disease that paralyzed or killed up to 52,000 Americans, mostly children, every year.
Throughout its history, the March of Dimes has supported many important research milestones that have benefitted newborn and child health. For example, in 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick identified the double helix structure of DNA, announcing, “We have found the secret of life.” Watson had received a grant from the March of Dimes that helped support his research on “protein patterns.” The team’s work won the Nobel Prize in 1962 and paved the way for modern genetic medicine, including the mapping of the human genome.
Another research breakthrough came in the early 1960s when March of Dimes-supported grantee Dr. Robert Guthrie developed the first screening test for PKU (phenylketonuria), allowing prevention of intellectual disabilities caused by PKU through diet. Since that time, the March of Dimes and family groups have campaigned tirelessly for expanded newborn screening. Today every baby born in every state in the U.S. receives screening for dozens of conditions that could cause catastrophic health problems or death if not detected and treated promptly at birth.
New Jersey has played an important role in the history of the March of Dimes:
- Virginia Apgar, MD, the creator of the Apgar Score and Vice President for the March of Dimes from 1959 to 1974, was born in New Jersey.
- Lewis Coriell, MD, Camden Municipal Hospital (now Coriell Institute for Medical Research) was a March of Dimes grantee who was one of the directors of the 1952 gamma globulin field trials.
- Squibb Laboratories, New Brunswick, NJ was involved in production of gamma globulin for GG field trials for MOD in 1952/53.
- T. C. Wheaton Co., Milville, NJ manufactured bottles for Salk vaccine.
- Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ manufactured needles and syringes used in the Salk vaccine field trial of 1954.
- Bergen, Cape May, Monmouth, Morris, and Warren counties participated in the Salk Polio Vaccine Field Trial of 1954.
- Two March of Dimes National Ambassadors have come from New Jersey: Robbie Zastavny, Moorestown, and Mackenzie Brooks, Ridgewood.
“We are very proud of the work that has been accomplished in New Jersey over the years and hope that one day, we will find a breakthrough right here in our backyard that will end premature births,” says Addy Bonet, State Director, March of Dimes, New Jersey chapter.
Today, the March of Dimes is hard at work to prevent the epidemic of premature birth, which affects nearly a half million babies every year. It established the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine that is bringing together the brightest minds from many disciplines -- geneticists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, engineers, computer scientists and many others -- to work together and find answers to explain and prevent preterm birth. The March of Dimes current research portfolio consists of about $100 million in grants to investigators throughout the United States and in about a dozen countries worldwide. In New Jersey, a grant has been given to Rutgers State University to identify variant genes, and interactions among these genes that increase susceptibility to certain birth defects.
In addition, the March of Dimes in New Jersey funds local initiatives such as such as NICU Family Support in Capital Health Regional Medical Center and Capital Health Medical Center-Hopewell and Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait in UMDMJ University Hospital, Newark Beth Israel, Newark Community Health Centers and Jewish Renaissance Centers.
The March of Dimes state wide sponsors include PSEG, Actavis, UnitedHealthcare, Virtua, Investors Bank and Hackensack University Medical Center. 75th anniversary sponsors for New Jersey are Investors Bank, Johnson & Johnson, Munich Re America, Siemens Caring Hands Foundation, and South Jersey Industries.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.