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Release Date: 10/08/2019

Erika Werner, MD, MS, division and fellowship director of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and associate professor of epidemiology at The Brown University School of Public Health, in connection with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Women & Infants Hospital, was recently awarded a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) last week.

The organization, whose mission is to conduct and support research on many of the most common, costly, and chronic conditions to improve health, awarded a five-year $2.5 million grant which will allow Dr. Werner and her team to work with four other centers focused on diabetes in pregnancy (MGH, Yale, Northwestern, and Kaiser) across the country, to identify better ways to diagnose glucose metabolism abnormalities in pregnancy, in an effort to optimize maternal and child health.

While the study began October 1, participant recruitment will likely begin next year at several Care New England prenatal clinics. Individuals involved in the study will be asked to wear small devices to monitor their glucose continuously for several days during their pregnancy.

In addition, Dr. Werner was also awarded a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) five-year, $7 million grant last month, to investigate health disparities.

This grant is in collaboration with RTI, Brown University’s David Savitz, associate dean for research, and professor of epidemiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics, as well as the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute, in a research effort to better understand the developmental origins of health disparities, or differences in developmental outcomes between socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups.

The study entitled, “The Prenatal and Childhood Mechanisms of Health Disparities", is designed to recruit a diverse cohort of pregnant parents in the first trimester and follow them throughout pregnancy and during the first year of life.

“Specifically the study will recruit 2,000 pregnant women, 500 of whom are Black or African American, and 500 of whom are Hispanic or Latina, to better understand how socioeconomic and race/ethnic disparities during pregnancy and in the first year of life, affect health-related behaviors, maternal neuroendocrine-immune, and metabolic responses during pregnancy, and children's health and development.”

Said Dr. Werner, “I would like to express my thanks to both agencies for their recognition and acknowledgement of this most important work and the clinical advancements that could result from these studies. I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to all of my colleagues, research collaborators, Brown University, and especially the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovations Institute and Women & Infants Hospital for fostering an environment of academic and clinical excellence.”

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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 9th 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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