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Fighting Birth Defects: Past, Present, and Future

Armen Hareyan's picture

The University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) helped the March of Dimes achieve its first mission to eradicate polio, and UMHS still has an important role in the March of Dimes' goal to help families have healthier babies. The March of Dimes funded Jonas Salk's research at the University of Michigan, and in 1955 Salk announced the discovery of the polio vaccine. The vaccine allowed the March of Dimes to change its focus from fighting polio to improving babies' health.

Currently the March of Dimes funds over $1million in research in the state of Michigan; over half of that amount is funding for studies at the University of Michigan for research aimed at preventing birth defects. Ayesha George, Community Director for the March of Dimes' Ann Arbor Division, says the relationship with the University of Michigan is "extremely important" because of the "cutting-edge" research that is taking place.

Timothy Johnson, M.D., Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan Health System, also acknowledges the importance of the relationship. "They're our partners. We can't deal with prematurity by ourselves," he says.

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The goal of overcoming low birthweight extends throughout Southeast Michigan. The National Institutes of Health funds a Perinatal Research Branch at Wayne State University. Because of all the research occurring at the University of Michigan and at Wayne State University, Southeast Michigan has the distinction of being a national research focus for prematurity.

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