Dr. Barbara Medoff-Cooper, Ruth M. Colket Professor in Pediatric Nursing
How does your work relate to Global Women’s Health? Maternal stress is a burden that challenges women alike across the globe and Dr. Medoff-Cooper is hard at work attempting to ease such a burden. Of this, she says, “We have found in the past that mothers of infants who are difficult to soothe and generally more irritable have higher stress.” Under her currently funded grant entitled “Transitional Telehealth Homecare: REACH,” she has just begun a brand new study offering a tangible means to reduce maternal stress. Her study seeks to provide specially-tailored support to young women who are caring for infants born with complex congenital heart defects, a circumstance that dramatically increases mothers (and their families) stress loads upon leaving the hospital. Dr. Medoff-Cooper details what this stress “looks like” by citing examples such as difficulties with feeding, the need for tube feeding, and administering many medications. Thus, by alleviating factors such as maternal stress, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, quality of family life, and quality of parental relationship, to name a few examples, Dr. Medoff-Cooper states that the overarching goal is that improving such factors will lead to increased abilities to provide the special care needs of the infant.
At present, who is a part of your study population? Mothers are being recruited both from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which receives women both locally and across states such as Louisiana and Alabama, as well as the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Collectively, these populations encompass the Appalachian geographic region.
What excites you most about your work? Dr. Medoff-Cooper shares that what brings her the most excitement during this project is observing the substantial support the mothers participating in the study receive after they have given birth and returned to their homes. The study is designed so that mothers have ongoing, attentive support that is both timely and only a screen and a phone call away. That’s right, through the use of Skype and/or FaceTime, mothers are able to contact the study team and receive care adapted to their specific needs. Dr. Medoff-Cooper described that this could mean showing their babies on-screen, during critical activities such as breathing, feeding, or sleeping and her team is then able to respond accordingly. When asked if there have been any complications thus far in using technologies like Skype or FaceTime, she replied that so far the calls have all been successful.
What is the most interesting application of your findings? While Dr. Medoff-Cooper noted that this is still considered to be a brand-new study, with research-based evidence of direct applications becoming stronger as the study proceeds, ultimately she sees her work creating a novel approach to home monitoring. At present, the model for providing mothers with newborns who have complex conditions is fragmented. Dr. Medoff-Cooper explains that sometimes a mother might receive a couple of different visiting nurses at irregular intervals, and/or sometimes receive support from a practitioner by telephone. Meanwhile, the support provided to the mothers in her study has the potential to be transformative. Through her emphasis on less disjointed and more attentive care, the means by which future mothers alike receive support following the delivery of infants with stressful conditions would see meaningful improvement.
What are your next steps? The study just completed pilot testing on families they have enrolled and will soon move on to randomizing participating mothers and their families into the study’s different groups.
What girl or woman stands out in your mind as someone who has influenced you? Dr. Medoff-Cooper responds immediately with Dr. Claire Fagin, for her championing of parents rights. Prior to Dr. Fagin’s efforts, parents were prohibited from seeing their children beyond hospital designated visiting hours. She praised Dr. Fagin’s demand for change - that parents be given the right to stay with their children at all times.
Shown here is Dr. Medoff-Cooper assisting one of the infants in her study.