April 18, 2001

Two San Diego Hospitals Join to Conduct National Neonatal Research

UCSD Medical Center and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women members of national network

Premature infants and other high-risk, special needs babies in San Diego will benefit from research taking place through a national network of hospital neonatal units (NICUs), which now includes the NICUs at UCSD Medical Center and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women.

As collaborative partners, Sharp Mary Birch and UCSD recently joined 15 other hospitals in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Neonatal Research Network. The network, which is affiliated with the National Institute of Health, works collaboratively on prospective neonatal research that helps at-risk infants survive.

“This collaboration between NICHD members allows us to perform sophisticated research and achieve results much more quickly than when an individual neonatal unit conducts research projects on its own,” said Neil Finer, M.D., chief of UCSD’s division of neonatology and principal investigator for this project. “Our partnership with Sharp Mary Birch will ensure that our site will be one of the largest in the network and will provide a large population of ethnically diverse infants, combined with experienced faculty and clinicians.”

Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women is one of the largest delivery hospitals in the entire state and has a 61-bed NICU. UCSD Medical Center, Hillcrest, has a 40-bed NICU. Combined, the two hospitals provide care for more than 1,800 infants each year, including approximately 300 premature infants with birth weights less than 1,500 grams (3 pounds, 5 ounces).

“Participation in the NICHD network puts San Diego in the forefront of neonatal research,” said Paul Wozniak, M.D., medical director of Sharp Mary Birch’s neonatology unit. “The research we do will contribute to the common goal of Sharp HealthCare and UCSD of making San Diego a healthier community, beginning with the health and well-being of our newborns.”

Both San Diego NICUs plan to start enrolling infants in at least two ongoing trials, as well as other studies conducted by the network. Current trials include evaluating the benefit of a specific amino acid, glutamine, to prevent infection and allow very immature infants the ability to better tolerate oral feedings. Another study of full-term newborns is evaluating whether cooling the whole body will improve neurodevelopment outcomes in infants who had a significant brain injury at birth.

The Neonatal Research Network, established in 1986, is made up of university-affiliated research centers with neonatology units. Sharp Mary Birch is the first non-university staffed NICU to participate in the network. The network studies the safety and effectiveness of promising treatment and management strategies to care for newborn infants, particularly low birth weight babies, and offers rigorous patient evaluation using common practices.

Children’s Hospital of San Diego will assist UCSD and Sharp Mary Birch by providing critically important follow-up evaluations for infants cared for in the network, centers, and its NICU may participate in selected clinical trials.

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Media Contacts:
Kate Deely Smith, UCSD
Eileen Cornish, Sharp

UCSD Health Sciences Communications Healthbeat