Dr. Mary L. Hediger Named Recipient of 2014 Agnes Higgins Award

Noted Scientist Is Recognized For a Career Devoted to Furthering Knowledge of Fetal-Maternal Nutrition

New Orleans, Louisiana | Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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 The March of Dimes honored a researcher and educator whose work changed national nutritional guidelines to improve the health of pregnant teens and women carrying twins.

Dr. Regina Benjamin, a member of the March of Dimes Board of Trustees and former U.S. Surgeon General, presented the 2014 March of Dimes Agnes Higgins award to Mary L. Hediger, PhD, during the 142nd annual meeting of the American Public Health Association held here.

Dr. Hediger has held various positions at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), most recently as senior research advisor since her retirement in 2013.

“Dr. Hediger has championed research in vulnerable populations - including twin pregnancies and pregnant teens who often were ignored despite being at high risk for under-nutrition and health problems during pregnancy, including preterm birth,” said Dr. Benjamin. “Her research on maternal biologic immaturity and intrauterine growth retardation has had showed how to preserve the health of the mother during pregnancy, while ensuring babies got a healthy start in life.”

Dr. Hediger received a doctorate in Biological Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. Her work focused on prenatal and post-natal growth, including children born with autism, children born from a multiple pregnancies, and babies conceived through assisted reproductive technologies. She also examined the link between breastfeeding and a child’s body mass index to determine if breastfeeding protects children from becoming overweight.

During her career, Dr. Hediger held faculty research positions at University of Pennsylvania, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Johns Hopkins University. She joined the NICHD in 1996 and her expertise in maternal nutrition and children’s health positioned her as a lead Investigator for the nutritional and anthropometric components on numerous studies, including the recently completed NICHD Fetal Growth Studies which will develop new standards for fetal growth for four racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

She has served on advisory committees for the National Research Council, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. She has served on the editorial board for the Annals of Human Biology. Dr. Hediger is a founding member and in 2006 served as President of the Society for Pediatric and Prenatal Epidemiologic Research.

The March of Dimes established the Agnes Higgins Award in 1980 to recognize her role in improving maternal health during pregnancy, and the health of babies. Agnes Higgins, CM, BSc, PDt., FRSH, LLD, was a nutritionist and executive director of the Montreal Diet Dispensary from 1948 until her retirement in 1981. The March of Dimes first presented the award as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Canada’s Montreal Diet Dispensary.

Mrs. Higgins helped pregnant women have healthy babies by focusing on the mother’s nutritional needs. Services provided at the Dispensary were the precursor of government nutrition programs for pregnant women in the United States, such as WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Since 1980, the Agnes Higgins Award has been presented at the American Public Health Association annual meeting to leaders in the field of maternal-fetal medicine in recognition of their achievement in research, education or clinical services in the field of maternal-fetal nutrition.


About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

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