Everyone Dr. Patricia Gabbe passes as she walks through the Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Weinland Park greets her warmly as "Dr. Pat." The positive influence she brings through the Moms2B program is reflected in the faces of volunteers, colleagues and the mothers the program serves.
"Pat has created a network of community support among the moms in Moms2B. It's a virtuous cycle," says her friend and colleague Dr. Edmund Funai, chief operating officer of the Ohio State University Health System. Funai nominated Gabbe for going beyond her professional duties in initiating and leading Moms2B, which provides resources to pregnant women in order to reduce infant mortality.
Founded in 2010, Moms2B meets three times a week in Weinland Park, the King-Lincoln neighborhood and on the city's East Side. Between 40 and 50 women attend each week. A fourth location on Parsons Avenue will be added this year.
Gabbe has spent most of her medical career battling infant mortality. An Oregon native, she attended medical school at the Oregon Health Sciences University before earning a master's degree in public health from the Harvard University School of Public Health in 1974. She taught and practiced in California and Washington and at Ohio State and Vanderbilt University before she and husband Dr. Steven Gabbe (an ob-gyn and CEO of the OSU Medical Center) returned to Columbus in 2008. She is senior medical advisor at the Ohio State University Managed Health Care Systems, a clinical professor of pediatrics at OSU and a physician at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Family Safety and Healing.
Gabbe says Moms2B arose naturally from her research into premature birth in Tennessee. "When we came back here to Columbus four and a half years ago, I was surprised that Ohio has some of the worst statistics of high infant death rates, especially among African-American women," says Gabbe. "Why should our African-American infant mortality be two and three times the white infant mortality [rate] and several times more than national goals? And how do you address that?"
In 2009, Gabbe served on Gov. Ted Strickland's Infant Mortality Task Force and helped to identify obstacles among lower class and uninsured mothers, particularly lack of access to coordinated health care and lack of social support through pregnancy. Her response was to combine a community-based health-care model with group-based pregnancy care in the Moms2B program.
"Standard prenatal care is: Come to the clinic once a month. Well that really, for women living in poverty, is probably not the right model. We are in impoverished neighborhoods, so we have set this up to come once a week," says Gabbe. Moms2B provides women with healthful food and nutrition education in addition to clinical and emotional support.
All but two of the 50 babies born under the guidance of the program have been born full-term. Perhaps the most telling signal of success is that Moms2B mothers return as volunteers to support other pregnant women. "These moms … are living under circumstances that most of us would find pretty intolerable and yet they are very strong, they thrive, they have amazing care for their children," Gabbe says.
Reprinted from the March 2013 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.