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First lady visits Children’s Hospital to learn about VUMC’s opioid approach

Jul. 26, 2018, 9:14 AM

Vanderbilt’s Meg Rush, MD, MMHC, left, and Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, MS, with first lady Melania Trump at Tuesday’s discussion on neonatal abstinence syndrome. (photo by John Russell)

First lady Melania Trump visited Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Tuesday to learn firsthand about Team Hope, Vanderbilt’s multidisciplinary team focused on helping infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) as well as their families.

Trump’s stop in Nashville was part of her Be Best campaign, which launched in May and focuses on children in their individual paths, stressing their social, emotional and physical health. The campaign’s three main pillars focus on well-being, social media use and opioid abuse.

The first lady participated in a roundtable discussion on neonatal abstinence syndrome with members of Team Hope, listening to the prenatal and postnatal care initiatives put in place to best help pregnant women addicted to opioids and their newborn infants.

“Thank you for all your work at Vanderbilt. You do incredible work,” Trump said. “This is my passion and I want to help and shine a light on the opioid crisis.”

Roundtable participants along with the first lady included: Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, MS, director of the Center for Child Health Policy; Admiral Brett Giroir, MD, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health; Erika Rodriguez-Munoz, LMSW, social worker for the Vanderbilt Center for Women’s Health; Reesha Sanghani, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology/Drug Dependency Clinic; Erin Munn, MS, CCLS, Child Life specialist for Team Hope; Susan Guttentag, MD, director of the Mildred Stahlman Division of Neonatology; Anna Morad, MD, director of the Newborn Nursery; Mary White, MPH, Health Policy and Services Analyst; and Michelle McPherson, RN, lactation consultant for Team Hope.

During Tuesday’s visit to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, first lady Melania Trump visited with patients and families. Here, she blows bubbles with patients Elliegh Rasmussen, left, and Essence Overton, right, as Child Life specialist Emily Brock looks on. (photo by John Russell)

Serving as moderator for the discussion was Meg Rush, MD, chief of staff and executive medical director for Children’s Hospital.

The panel members discussed their roles in helping pregnant women and infants born with NAS. The team tries to connect with mothers before their infants are born to begin support services, but they continue that care after birth as well with a dedicated team trained in caring for NAS infants and their families.

Patrick noted that the care is geared toward the entire family, and not just the infant.

“When I first approached this problem — I am a neonatologist and I am trained to take care of babies — I focused on the baby. When I stood back, I realized it was far more complex than that. What’s good for mom is good for baby,” Patrick said. “As we think about an approach to this, it begins with primary prevention. How do we begin to limit excess opioids and heroin in our community and then improve access to treatment? How can we get people connected to therapies that we know are lifesaving? We know the transition home is stressful for families. So, we’re partnering with child welfare to begin to keep families together with planning and coordination before birth and extending after birth.”

Trump asked several questions of the panel, wanting to learn more about the team’s work, from how many babies they see with NAS to how support services are provided once the family and baby return home, as well as how long Vanderbilt tracks the infant after discharge.

“I feel we need to talk about it because of society’s stigma,” the first lady said. “Young moms, they don’t want to talk, they don’t want to say they have a problem and they don’t want to ask for help. The more we talk about it and have a conversation, the better it is and the more it’s out there and they are educated by that.”

Following the roundtable discussion, the first lady visited with children in one of the hospital playrooms, blowing bubbles, playing with a mechanical train set and discussing painted fingernails.

Trump was greeted in the playroom with a big hug from Children’s Hospital patient Essence Overton, 4.

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