A New Era in Prenatal Care

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Story by Ann E. Butenas

Exploring the OB Services at University Health

University Health Women’s Care programs at clinics in Kansas City and Lee’s Summit are revolutionizing prenatal care. Merging innovation with compassion and excellence, these clinics are setting new standards in maternal health. The exceptional services offered by these clinics highlight the impressive work of their physicians and associated health care specialists. These clinics offer expectant mothers more than just medical care; they provide a supportive community that addresses critical needs throughout the journey of pregnancy.

The obstetrical services at University Health Women’s Care, serving multiple generations, stand out for their integrated and extensive care. The team, consisting of Board-Certified OB/GYNs, nurse midwives, and specialists in robotics-assisted surgery, provides an array of services. These professionals are not just healthcare experts but also educators and innovators in their field. Programs like EleVATE are pioneering in offering expectant mothers not just clinical care but also a supportive network, essential for holistic maternal health.

The overall goal of University Health is to be a lifelong healthcare partner, offering expertise and personalized care adapted to the evolving needs of their patients. This approach, along with their collaborative practice model, particularly in managing prenatal care, showcases University Health’s dedication to shaping the future of prenatal care—one mother, one baby at a time. The patient-centric care at University Health is prioritized through their various prenatal care options, allowing patients to tailor their experience. The trust and relationships built between patients and physicians at UHWC are rooted in open communication, ensuring the best possible care for both mother and baby.

Delving into the perspectives of physicians and specialists at University Health’s Obstetrics  services unveils a deeper understanding of their commitment to innovation, compassion, and excellence in maternal care.


Spotlight on Emily Burnett, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology

Dr. Burnett completed her OB/GYN residency training at UMKC in June 2023. Shortly after, in September 2023, she joined the team at UHWC practice.

Her journey to University Health was inspired during her residency, where she became deeply impressed by the group dynamic and the comprehensive patient care at UHWC.

“The opportunity for collaboration with a diverse range of physicians and specialists, coupled with the chance to work in a teaching institution, is second to none,” stated Dr. Burnett, who further noted that University Health stands out in prenatal care for its patient-centered approach and flexible care options.

“Patients can choose from physicians or nurse midwives. The strength of our prenatal care lies in our collaborative team effort, striving to provide exceptional care daily. We recognize and accommodate the unique needs of each patient, ensuring a tailored and compassionate experience,” she expressed.


The impact of University Health’s approach to prenatal care is evident in-patient outcomes. For example, the accessibility of MFM specialists allows for immediate escalation and coordination of care, ensuring patient safety and reassurance. Patients frequently express their appreciation for the quality care provided by this team, which includes everyone from clerical staff to medical professionals.

“Quality care comes from every member of our team,” reflected Dr. Burnett “The relationship between all members is exceptional. Most days I get the opportunity to interact with every member of the team, and the communication between everyone is incredible. Also, collaborating with our nurse midwives in both outpatient and inpatient settings has such a positive effect on patient care. This allows patients a continuity of care that I have not seen offered at many other institutions.”

Recent advancements and innovations in prenatal care, such as evidence-based practices and the availability of TOLAC (trial of labor after a prior cesarean delivery), are exciting developments at University Health. Regular discussions on new data and its implementation in practice help ensure the best outcomes for patients and their babies.

“Working at University Health has been a fulfilling start to my career,” reflected Dr. Burnett. “This is the most collaborative and compassionate environment I could imagine being a part of, and I hope my colleagues and patients know how grateful I am for all of them.”


Spotlight on Laura Doan, M.D. and Susan Mou, M.D.

Dr. Laura Doan and Dr. Susan Mou, both Board Certified OB/GYNs with extensive experience, are integral to the University Health Obstetrics programs. Dr. Doan, a respected professional in her field, joined UH Women’s Care in Lee’s Summit after a successful 20-year tenure in a prominent private practice, attracting three generations of loyal patients. She expresses a deep passion for obstetrics, highlighting the profound relationships she builds with her patients as the most cherished aspect of her work.

“There are many aspects of the field I enjoy, but the part I treasure most are my relationships with my patients. I get to participate in the biggest miracle in most people’s lives, the birth of their children” stated Doan.

 


Dr. Mou, with an impressive background in both academic and private sectors, rejoined UH Obstetrics in 2012, bringing her considerable expertise to the team.

Both Dr. Doan and Dr. Mou emphasize their appreciation for the collaborative and innovative atmosphere of their academic practice.

They value the extensive resources available, which significantly enhance the care they provide to their patients.

 

 


Spotlight on Aja Greer, CNM

At University Health, the prenatal care landscape is being transformed by innovative programs and dedicated healthcare experts. A key figure in this transformation is Aja Greer, a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), whose journey into midwifery was inspired by her own experiences as a young mother. Her approach to midwifery is not just about medical care; it’s about being a part of an incredibly special and transformative period in a woman’s life.

However, Greer also acknowledges challenges, such as raising awareness about the availability and safety of midwife-led care in hospitals. Contrary to common misconceptions, certified nurse midwives like Greer often work in hospital settings, offering women the option of a home-like birthing experience with access to medical interventions if necessary.

“I think one of our challenges is getting the word out there that we are available,” she emphasized. “Most people think midwives deliver babies at home with no medication, when in fact, most certified nurse midwives work in hospitals.


The EleVATE Prenatal Program

A significant part of Greer’s work relates to her involvement with the EleVATE prenatal program at the Lee’s Summit clinic. This program, a brainchild of Dr. Ebony Carter from Washington University in St. Louis and facilitated by Greer in Kansas City, aims to address higher rates of infant mortality. It offers intensive resources and education in group classes, fostering a sense of community among expectant mothers. The program, also overseen by project investigator Traci Johnson, MD,  a maternal fetal medicine physician, provides additional support for high-risk patients.

This innovative approach is more comprehensive than traditional centering programs, with a strong focus on mental health and trauma-informed care. The program is structured as a study, with patients being randomized into group care or traditional care, allowing for a detailed evaluation of its effectiveness.

The EleVATE program, which stands for “Elevating Voices, Addressing Depression, Toxic Stress, and Equity,” plays a crucial role in transforming prenatal care, particularly for black women who historically face significantly higher mortality rates in childbirth. This program is a proactive response to the startling disparity where black women are dying at three times the rate of white women during childbirth, regardless of socioeconomic status or education level. By identifying toxic stress as a key factor in these disparities, EleVATE tailors its approach to support all pregnant women exhibiting similar risk factors, making it a pivotal aspect of prenatal care at University Health.

In the EleVATE groups, discussions go beyond the usual topics of pregnancy and baby care. A significant portion of each session is dedicated to addressing mental wellness. Participants learn coping mechanisms and strategies to manage stress, fostering an environment of mutual support and understanding. This sense of community is further strengthened as the groups consist of mothers at similar stages of pregnancy, allowing them to share experiences and comfort each other in knowing they are not alone in their journey.

The program creates a bond among the participants, so much so that they often linger after sessions to socialize and support one another. This community aspect is a testament to the program’s success and its importance in prenatal care.

A poignant example of EleVATE’s impact is the story of a young lady who initially attended the group with severe anxiety, so much so that she cried through her first meeting. Over time, she transformed, growing in confidence and eventually becoming a source of advice and inspiration to new group members during her postpartum visits. Her journey from an anxious expectant mother to a confident, supportive peer exemplifies the profound effect the EleVATE program can have on the mental and emotional wellbeing of its participants, marking it as a blessing in the realm of prenatal care.


The Navigator Programs at University Health with Shelly Chandler, BS, RN, Women’s Health Program Navigator

As a Maternity Navigator at University Health Truman Medical Center (UHTMC), Shelly Chandler’s role is integral in guiding mothers-to-be through their pregnancy journey. A typical day involves meeting new OB patients on their first visit, providing them with a comprehensive OB packet that includes prenatal care information, educational resources, and tour details.

“I ensure they understand what to expect throughout their pregnancy and answer any questions they might have,” noted Chandler.

Her inspiration to become a Maternity Navigator stems from her mother, a labor and delivery nurse whose impact on women’s lives deeply influenced her.

Chandler’s impact on expectant mothers includes making early connections, providing answers and advocacy throughout their pregnancy, and reducing barriers to care. She connects them with social work, community resources, and prenatal education, and encourages engagement in prenatal care. A notable aspect of her work also involves the teen mom’s program, which equips them with essential items like car seats and cribettes, along with prenatal and newborn classes, to improve maternal and fetal outcomes.

Chandler further elaborated on UHTMC’s OB department, noting it stands out as the regional referral center for high-risk pregnancies.

“UHTMC is the regional referral center for all high-risk pregnancies,” she said. “We have the only connection to a children’s hospital in the region. The Bridge of Hope connects us in a way that is unlike any other hospital. We are only 67 steps from Children’s Mercy Hospital. We have an amazing High Risk OB clinic team and expert perinatal OB Ultrasound Sonographers. We are an Academic Hospital taking care of the most complex cases and providing wraparound services. We have the only Level 4 Labor and Delivery unit in this region and a Level 3 NICU, along with a newly renovated state of the art Labor and Delivery private suites and NICU.”

Among other advantages UH offers, according to Chandler, are its distinctive choices for women, such as expertise in high-risk pregnancies, diabetic education, and genetic counseling, among others. The hospital’s competitive advantages include integrated psychologist services, childbirth and newborn education, and financial counseling, ensuring a comprehensive maternity experience.

Moving forward, the Maternity Navigator role is set to evolve with the addition of more nurses and continuous efforts to secure grants for assisting mothers with essential supplies. This growth and development in the hospital’s services and resources will further enhance the quality of patient care within the OB department.


Transforming Maternal Care: University Health’s Commitment to Excellence and Equity in Prenatal Services

University Health’s array of services, represent a groundbreaking approach to prenatal and maternal care. By addressing the unique needs of each mother-to-be, focusing on mental wellness, and fostering a community of support, University Health is not just caring for expectant mothers but is also actively working to bridge disparities in maternal healthcare. The remarkable transformation seen in the women who participate in their programs is a testament to the effectiveness and necessity of such holistic approaches in healthcare. University Health’s commitment to innovation, empathy, and excellence in maternal care not only enhances the pregnancy experience for individual mothers but also contributes significantly to the health and wellbeing of the broader community.

With an eye towards the future, University Health continues to pave the way for advancements and improvements in maternal health care.

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