Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) announced today a $1 million gift from Terri and Tom Bone for ongoing prematurity research taking place at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). MWRI, headquartered in Pittsburgh, is the largest independent research institute focused solely on women’s health and reproductive biology.
Nearly 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely each year in the United States. Those born before 37 weeks can be susceptible to long-term health problems over their entire lives. In about 50% of the prematurity cases, the cause is not known.
The best approach to reducing prematurity is prevention, according to Yoel Sadovsky, M.D., executive director of MWRI. “Nearly a third of premature babies are born early when their birth is induced by health care providers for medical indications, such as preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction and diseases of the placenta,” Sadovsky said. “All of these conditions are targets of MWRI research, with the goal of markedly reducing the incidence of prematurity.”
Dr. Sadovsky also notes the need for better research exploring major complications of preterm newborns, including respiratory distress, brain hemorrhage, gut perforations and severe infections.
Terri and Tom Bone support women’s health research for many reasons, with the biggest motivation — their family. Despite being healthy, Terri delivered two of her three children prematurely. Her second child was born five weeks early and spent time in UPMC Magee’s NICU. Her third child was also born several weeks early, and his lungs were not fully developed. He needed transfusions and required multiple resuscitations.
“I was born prematurely as was my grandmother in 1917. I should have known I was at a high risk for having premature babies, too. Although I knew about my grandfather’s heart attack and stroke, and that colon cancer runs in my family, women don’t talk about childbirth or what they had to overcome during childbirth. Women need to be comfortable telling their own stories to make sure their kids, families and doctors know the important aspects of their health. I believe these conversations will empower women and help women’s health research advance much more quickly,” explained Bone.
“Our family’s passion is to end prematurity. To accelerate this work, we are delighted to invest in a woman-focused organization, like MWRI, where over 50% of its researchers are women, over 50% of its lead researchers are women, and more than 50% of research funds are obtained by senior women researchers,” added Bone.
An executive in residence for accounting at the University of Pittsburgh, Terri said her passion for women’s health research led her to become a board member of MWRI in 2013. She also serves as the vice president of finance for The 25 Club, which supports newborn medicine, neonatal research, and fetal interventions at Magee.
“This generous gift exemplifies what we work every day to accomplish at MWRI,” said Michael Annichine, the research institute’s president and chief executive officer. “Research that focuses on women’s health and prematurity, which is now funded through the determination and generosity of two hard working people, is a milestone worth celebrating. While we recognize that we have a long way to go, gifts like Terri and Tom Bone’s serve as catalysts that will help us reach our goals. They have not only given this generational gift, but have supported us for years with their time and talents and for that we are equally grateful.”