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Release Date: 10/23/2014

Betty R. Vohr, MD, FAAP, director of the Neonatal Follow-Up Program at Women & Infants Hospital and professor of pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, was awarded the annual Landmark Award of the Section on Perinatal Pediatrics for her efforts in establishing the first Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program in the United States. This program has now been replicated across the country as a means of detecting congenital hearing loss as early as possible for auditory intervention to optimize language development in children. Dr. Vohr received the award at the annual Section on Perinatal Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in San Diego, CA.

Prior to the establishment of the newborn screening program, screening for hearing impairment in infants and children was done by practitioners in routine physicals. Dr. Vohr's passion to see the process of detection improve drove the acquisition of funding from the Maternal and Child Health and Department of Education to test and study universal newborn hearing screening. The results demonstrated positive and preventive effects leading to national recognition. Rhode Island subsequently became the first state to successfully implement a statewide universal newborn hearing screening program under Dr. Vohr's direction.

Dr. Vohr said, "All Rhode Islanders can be proud that the study demonstrating the feasibility of newborn hearing screen was done in Rhode Island between 1989 and 1991, and that RI was the first state to mandate and achieve universal newborn hearing screening. Today more than 97% of newborns in the U.S. are screened. The ultimate reward is seeing the wonderful outcomes that are now possible for early identified children."

Throughout her career dedicated to infant hearing and newborn health, Dr. Vohr has served on numerous committees including serving as an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) delegate and chair of the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing, the AAP Task Force on Improving the Effectiveness of Newborn Hearing Screening, Diagnosis and Intervention, and she has been a Rhode Island AAP Chapter Champion for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention.

The Section on Perinatal Pediatrics was founded in 1974 for the purpose of improving the care of pregnant women, fetuses, and newborn infants by providing an educational forum for the discussion of problems relating to pregnancy, and neonatal medicine. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Board of Directors receives recommendations from the section on programs, policy statements, and other matters relating to the fetus and newborn. "I was incredibly honored to receive the 2014 AAP Perinatal Section Landmark Award. Universal newborn hearing screening would not have been possible without the support, enthusiasm and commitment of so many professionals and parents of children with hearing loss," said Dr. Vohr.

About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 12th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.
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