Historic Philanthropic Commitment Will Enable MedStar Health to Address High Mortality Rates Among Mothers and Children in Washington, D.C.
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Philanthropic investment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation to support building a holistic and integrated care model for D.C. mothers and young children

WASHINGTON—MedStar Health is grateful to announce a transformative philanthropic partnership with the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation to establish the D.C. Safe Babies Safe Moms initiative in the Washington, D.C., region. This milestone philanthropic partnership brings together nationally recognized experts and care in the fields of women’s health, family medicine, behavioral health, and pediatrics at both MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

“We are thrilled to have received such a generous philanthropic commitment from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. Their support, combined with the incredible capabilities of our world-class clinicians and caregivers will have a significant impact on improving and enhancing care for moms and babies in the D.C. area,” said Kenneth A. Samet, President and Chief Executive Officer of MedStar Health. “There is no way this program could have been initiated without their generous investment, and we are exceptionally grateful for their partnership with us.”

“We are proud to announce this investment in MedStar as a major part of our commitment to improving maternal and child health outcomes in Washington, D.C., A child’s early years are a springboard to opportunity and a healthy, thriving future,” said Joe Del Guercio, Clark Foundation President and CEO. 

“The Clark Foundation’s goal for our investments is to make an impact not only at a family level, but at a community level and beyond. Because MedStar is already a trusted health provider for so many moms and babies in Washington, D.C., this initiative is uniquely positioned to have a broad impact with its focus on social determinants of health, its innovative service delivery, and its partnerships with community-based providers.”   

This collaborative vision is fulfilling an essential need to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in the nation’s capital, an area that currently ranks among the worst in the United States.

“As important as addressing these critical needs is how MedStar Health will approach them,” said Angela Thomas, DrPH, MPH, MBA, assistant vice president, Healthcare Delivery Research, MedStar Health Research Institute. “With an established presence and deep expertise in treating an incredibly diverse set of patients, developing culturally competent and appropriate forms of testing and treatment is a central focus of this new initiative.”

Janine A. Rethy, MD, MPH, division chief, Community Pediatrics, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital explained the importance of this partnership and initiative. “We need to be doing more for families and communities that are most vulnerable so that we can meet our mission of every child and mother having the opportunity to be healthy and to thrive.”

Building a System of Collaboration

This new initiative is a collaboration among four MedStar Health clinical programs that will come together to create a variety of services and programs that address the needs facing pregnant women, as well as their infants and toddlers. Services include everything from diabetes control and mental health services for mothers as well as prenatal and postpartum care, breast feeding, health screenings, and nutrition. The care network team at MedStar Health will include:

  • Women and Infants’ Services, MedStar Washington Hospital Center
  • Community Pediatrics, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
  • Family Medicine, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

The Women and Infants’ Services patient population is composed predominantly of African American residents of Wards 5, 7, and 8. The prevalence of stillborn deliveries and infant mortality overall is almost four times higher for African American mothers than white mothers for those treated at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Based on projections, the D.C. Safe Babies Safe Moms initiative will serve approximately 3,600 pregnant women each year.

“The Safe Babies Safe Moms initiative brings something powerful to mothers and infants by integrating services critical for achieving optimal birth outcomes, but are not traditionally provided within the healthcare system,” Loral Patchen, PhD, vice chair, Innovation and Community Programs, Obstetrics and Gynecology, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said. “These services directly address social determinants, such as food insecurity and transportation. And perhaps more importantly, our approach of offering an environment where women feel safe interacting with the healthcare system and are able to build trusting relationships with their health care team is more likely.”

Matthew Biel, MD, chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital said, “At the heart of this incredible initiative is the opportunity to create patient experiences that feel coherent, cohesive, and integrated. We can achieve true, long-lasting positive health outcomes through holistic and multi-generational approaches for our patients and their families. This means also focusing our work to support the mental health of children and parents, particularly in the context of adversity and trauma. Our focus is on caring for the whole person, including attention to their physical, emotional, and behavioral well-being, and promoting a sense of security and stability.”

“Providing comprehensive patient-centered care for every family has always been our goal,” said Michelle Roett, MD, MPH, FAAFP, CPE, professor and chair, Department of Family Medicine, director of the DC Area Health Education Center (AHEC), co-medical director, HOYA Clinic, and clinical chief of Family Medicine at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “D.C. Safe Babies Safe Moms is a tremendous opportunity to achieve highly coordinated care for mothers and children where they seek care, and integrate behavioral health, maternity care, and primary care to improve outcomes for families in need. Immediate access to expert primary care physicians, psychologists, maternal fetal medicine and more, will have an extremely positive impact for our patients’ well-being and overall health.”

Supporting Communities of Today and Tomorrow

A critical aspect of the D.C. Safe Babies Safe Moms initiative is the proposed use of algorithmic screening of electronic medical records to identify high-risk patients. Throughout the program, a team of scientists from the MedStar Health Research Institute will help with evidence-based design, analysis of health economics, implementation and data science, and health equity research.

Neil Weissman, MD, chief scientific officer, MedStar Health, and president, MedStar Health Research Institute said, “Through this partnership with the Clark Foundation, we’re able to create positive and sustainable change that will improve the health of mothers and children in D.C. This partnership allows us to bring together the best of academics and medical care to advance health today and discover ways for future generations to have a healthy life tomorrow.”

The $27 million philanthropic investment by the Clark Foundation is the largest philanthropic gift ever made to MedStar Health. To further support this mission, MedStar Health has committed to raising an additional $3 million for the D.C. Safe Babies Safe Moms initiative. This leadership gift is helping to build momentum for the D.C. Safe Moms Safe Babies initiative which has already secured multiple, strong community partners who also are contributing in transformative ways.

Since its founding in 1987, the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation has supported hundreds of nonprofit organizations in the D.C. area. With a mission to expand opportunities for those who demonstrate the drive and determination to better themselves and their communities, the foundation focuses on nonprofit organizations that have a strong infrastructure and programmatic vision that will succeed for generations to come.

MedStar Health is grateful to forge this collaboration among the philanthropy team, clinical partners, and visionaries at the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. Through the foundation’s vision, coupled with the vast capabilities and expertise at MedStar Health, vital treatments and services will advance to new heights and expand to a patient population that is in critical need.

Through a patient’s participation in the continuum of care offered by D.C. Safe Babies Safe Moms, MedStar Health providers will be able to promote social equality and health equity, advance efforts to promote health, and ensure high quality care for all women and infants. Successful implementation of this initiative may become a model for the city on how to improve maternal and infant health.

Stephen Evans, MD, executive vice president, Medical Affairs and chief medical officer, MedStar Health said, “Our cross-disciplinary, integrated care team of not just the best and brightest minds in MedStar Health but also those within our community partners, will provide real-life solutions to moms, babies, and families that address not only their medical needs, but also their social needs, access needs, and more. Couple this dynamic care team with nationally recognized data scientists, analysts, health economists, and implementation scientists and we have an innovative model of care delivery for maternal and infant care that redefines how we teach, how we learn, and how we treat people. None of this would have been possible without this transformative philanthropic support from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation. Thank you to their team and Board members for choosing to become our lead philanthropic partner in this incredibly important initiative.”