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University of Maryland Children's Hospital Unveils new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

June 23, 2015

Cynthia Bearer, MD, PhD, FAAP

The University of Maryland Children’s Hospital,(UMCH) in conjunction with the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s (UM SOM) Department of Pediatrics, today unveiled its new 37,000 square-foot Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  The new unit, triple the size of the previous NICU, will meet the rapidly rising need for specialty care and innovative research to benefit the smallest and most fragile patients in a family-centered care environment. 

In the new NICU, the Division of Neonatology in the UM SOM Department of Pediatrics, will provide a full range of state-of-the-art therapies for treating extremely premature and premature babies, including  nutritional management, surgical interventions for birth defects including congenital heart disease, abdominal wall defects, cleft lip/palate repair, brain malformations, whole body cooling for neonatal encephalopathy, care of infants with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and care of infants with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. 

The new Unit has 52 private rooms, each with a sleeping couch, to allow families the privacy and space they need to bond with their baby and perform important developmental practices such as skin-to-skin contact. To better accommodate the sensory sensitivities of premature and critically-ill infants, each room is equipped with controllable light and sound to help regulate circadian rhythms and mimic the environment within the womb. A large family lounge with a fully-equipped kitchen, dining area and sitting room has been added so families and siblings of NICU babies can gather, play and relax in a comfortable, home-like setting. 

“As one of only two NICUs in the State of Maryland with a level IV designation, the highest level of care available for critically-ill newborns, we continually strive to give our patients and families the most compassionate and advanced care,” says Jeffrey A. Rivest, President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), home to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. “We could not continue to innovate without the philanthropic partnerships and support of our generous donors who have committed more than $8 million to help us build this extraordinary space.” 

Doctors and researchers in the Division, led by Cynthia Bearer, MD, PhD, FAAP, Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Pediatrics and Head, Division of Neonatology, will continue to study and explore all of the elements of the NICU environment in order to better understand the needs of premature and extremely pre-mature babies. According to Dr. Bearer, these research efforts help re-create a NICU that closely imitates the womb so that these infants can continue to grow in the most natural environment outside their mother's body. 

“The new NICU exemplifies how the School of Medicine and the Medical Center work together to provide innovative treatments, that are based on a foundation of research, to deliver the highest value of care to even the tiniest of our patients,” said E. Albert Reece, Vice President, Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.   “The Unit will give University of Maryland School of Medicine faculty researchers countless opportunities to study the kinds of environments that promote healthy development.” 

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