Celebrating International Women’s Day with health pioneers
Thank you to all the amazing women who have worked to give every family the best possible start!
Virginia Apgar, MD
It’s been said that every baby is first seen through the eyes of Virginia Apgar.
Virginia Apgar, MD, (1909–1974) was an obstetrical anesthesiologist best known for developing the Apgar score, a system used worldwide for evaluating the physical condition of newborns at birth. Her career spanned the fields of medicine and public health, and she became a pivotal figure in redirecting March of Dimes’ mission in the 1960s from polio to birth defects and other infant health problems such as preterm birth. More than that, Virginia Apgar was an irrepressible and charismatic champion for babies whose wit and lively personality captivated everyone she encountered in her constant quest for improvements to maternal and infant health.
Agnes Higgins was a pioneer in devising methods of nutritional assessment and counseling, Mrs. Higgins advanced the understanding of eating healthy as a crucial factor in healthy pregnancies and prevention of low birthweight. Today, the Agnes Higgins Award is presented in recognition of distinguished achievement in research, education or clinical services in the field of maternal-fetal nutrition.
Dr. Caroline Fall, MBChB, DM, March of Dimes’ 2019 Agnes Higgins award winner, serves as the Professor of International Pediatric Epidemiology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Southampton (UK) where she’s also an Honorary Consultant in Child Health and a member of the Pediatric Diabetes Team. Dr. Fall’s research has changed the way we think about maternal nutrition and metabolism during critical periods of fetal development that can have short- and long-term impact.
She discovered that in utero, exposure to maternal malnutrition and maternal diabetes predispose the infant to low birthweight, poor infant weight gain and rapid weight gain in childhood and adolescence, and also leads to long-term metabolic impact, including a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in their adult life. She has pioneered the evaluation of preconception maternal nutritional interventions for long-term benefit in the child.
To recognize and promote excellence in nursing care of moms and babies, March of Dimes offers scholarships annually to registered nurses enrolled in graduate programs of maternal-child nursing. Thank you to these incredible nurses!
Heather Bradford, MSN, CNM, of Kirkland, WA, a PhD student at Vanderbilt University, TN
“In addition to continuing to practice full-scope midwifery, my career goal is to become a leading maternal-child health researcher as a tenure-track faculty member at a research-focused nursing institution. I would like to use this platform to continue to grow the midwifery workforce as an educator. I also aim to continue to explore my program of research describing birth attendants’ weight bias toward laboring patients with higher body weights, and its influence on clinical decision-making and labor and delivery outcomes. In addition, I hope to develop evidence-based intrapartum guidelines for pregnant patients with higher body weights to optimize their birth experiences and labor and delivery outcomes.”
Illiyah Edwards, RN, of Durham, NC, a MSN/ WHNP student at Duke University, NC
“My journey to becoming a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner is not a linear one, but I am certain that my passion and interest in the holistic care of women begins with the relationship that I have with my mother. Growing up with a single mother, and witnessing her superwoman complex, was the start of my desire to change the health stigmatizations in the African American community. By the age of 10, I had already conducted cardiac research and by the following year, my mother experienced a stroke after giving birth to my sister. It was then that I decided that I would accomplish every necessity to be a change agent for women, African Americans and low-income families.”
Melicia Escobar, MSN, CNM, WHNP-BC, of Philadelphia, PA, a DNP student at Georgetown University, DC
“My career goals involve building on the health equity work that I started in our program and applying those lessons to broader contexts within midwifery, nursing and other professions at a systems level. Providers require skills that allow them to care for people holistically and mitigate barriers that impede vulnerable populations from receiving optimal care. March of Dimes has been committed to targeted prevention in the service of pregnant people and their babies for years, collaborating with health care providers, researchers and advocates to make remarkable and lasting change. With racism emerging as a root cause of maternal mortality and morbidity and neonatal mortality, I see March of Dimes’ work to improve health equity as a powerful vehicle for improving the health care landscape.”
Amy Goh, MSN, WHNP, CNM, of West Roxbury, MA, a PhD student at Boston College, MA
“My ultimate goal is to positively impact perinatal care in several ways. First, I envision becoming an expert on how digital health tools can help improve patient-provider communication, specifically with pregnant people of color and to use my research to advocate for inclusive digital health tools for pregnant people of color. Second, I would like to practice as a midwife and conduct research on racially and culturally concordant care. Third, I am passionate about diversifying the midwifery workforce and desire to establish a school of midwifery comprised of students and faculty that will look very much like the community where it stands. Ideally this school will be largely funded by the state with the goal of improving perinatal outcomes by increasing the number of midwives that can provide racially and culturally concordant care.”