How Healthcare Trailblazer Dr. Pat Gabbe helped 3,000 babies

Laura Newpoff
Dr. Patricia Gabbe

Dr. Patricia Gabbe, Healthcare Trailblazer, Columbus CEO Healthcare Achievement Awards 2021

After Gov. Ted Strickland was sworn in as Ohio governor in 2007, Dr. Patricia Gabbe was tapped to work with him and Mayor Andrew Ginther, then a Columbus city councilman, to address the region’s infant mortality crisis. A task force was assembled, a report was completed—and then that report got filed away. “We can’t file that away. We’ve got to do something,” Gabbe thought.

The clinical professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University had an idea. She’d both help and learn from women in high-crime and high-poverty neighborhoods where infant mortality rates were five times higher than what they should be. Alongside Twinkle Schottke, an infant mental health specialist, Gabbe founded Moms2B in 2010 with a $48,000 grant from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. It started out as a cooking program at a Black church in Weinland Park near the university with just a few women.

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“We learned from the moms,” says Gabbe, who also is principal investigator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Perinatal Research. “We soon learned we needed to have nurses educate about pregnancy and early signs of labor. We needed social workers for stress reduction (and) connecting to services. We needed dieticians to make sure they had heart healthy meals and that they were tasty, because we needed the women to eat them. And, modeling breast feeding was really important.”

A multidisciplinary program was created with those specialists and more. The focus was on the social determinants of health that address factors beyond the exam room.

3,000 healthy babies

Moms2B has grown into a comprehensive education program for expectant mothers and new moms. It operates out of eight locations across Columbus and virtually with moms in Dayton. There are weekly education and support sessions to promote healthy choices and link moms with support from pregnancy until baby’s first birthday. Lessons include breastfeeding, child development, family planning, goal setting, labor and delivery, mindfulness, anger management, reproductive health and safe sleep. There are free, healthy meals, food access and the bonus of friendships that regularly develop among the mothers.

More:See all Healthcare Achievement winners 2021

Moms2B also focuses on how a family overall fares with food, transportation and education; whether there is safe housing and a safe place for the baby to sleep; helps with drug problems and smoking cessation; and addresses structural and implicit racism issues in a hopeful and real way.

Some of the program’s milestones include:

  • Since its inception, nearly 3,000 healthy babies have been delivered in underserved central Ohio neighborhoods.
  • In Weinland Park, there has been a five-fold decrease in the infant mortality rate to 2.9 per 1,000 births.
  • In 2019, the infant mortality rate in Franklin County fell below 7 per 1,000 births perhaps for the first time ever.
  • Moms2B has grown from its original 11 moms to seeing nearly 800 pregnant and parenting moms in 2019.
  • Despite Covid-19, Moms2B served more than 600 moms in 2020, including 312 new moms. The program hosts 11 Zoom sessions every week.

Moms2B has received support from multiple organizations over the years, including the Columbus Foundation, Mount Carmel Health, Kroger and the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community initiatives.

A gift, not a burden

Moms2B has had a profound impact on the lives of local families. Gabbe likes to point to the story of Amber Broadus, a single mom who said the program’s employees were the first people in her life to congratulate her for being pregnant. Instead of feeling as if her children were a burden, Moms2B helped her realize they were a gift, Gabbe says.

“That is our whole focus. Respect Black women (who) are pregnant and give them the honor they deserve,” Gabbe says. “They have incredible resilience. They look at life for the most part in a positive way and (want a way) to have healthy pregnancies and be a good parent.”

Gabbe realized as the program evolved she needed to get the dads involved, so the curriculum for Dads2B, which is now five years old, was created and serves as the model of a reproduceable program. A recently published research paper that documents Moms2B’s success in reducing infant deaths is giving Gabbe “new energy to say, ‘Yes, we need to take this program throughout Ohio.’ ”

In nomination materials, Dr. Kamilah Dixon-Shambley, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University College of Medicine and Moms2B’s medical director, wrote: “I have never worked with an individual as dedicated and passionate to the service of pregnant mothers and protecting the health of babies as ‘Dr. Pat.’ On a more personal note, Dr. Pat has also proven to be a mentor to everyone she works with. She has provided support and encouragement for moms in the program who now work as community health workers with Moms2B.”

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.

Dr. Patricia Gabbe

Clinical professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, Ohio State University; founder and director, Moms2B; principal investigator, Center for Perinatal Research, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Age: 79

In role since: 2008

Experience: Faculty appointments and positions since 1972 including at the Boston University School of Medicine; University of California, San Francisco; Ohio State University; University of Washington and Vanderbilt University. Hospital appointments include Boston City Hospital, San Francisco General Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Education: B.A., Mills College (Oakland, California); M.S. in anatomy, electron histochemistry, Oregon Health Sciences University; M.D., Oregon Health Sciences University; Master of Public Health, Harvard University School of Public Health

Community Involvement: In 2010, she founded Moms2B to bring research-based maternity, prenatal and early infant education to neighborhoods across Columbus that experience the highest rates of infant mortality. She has an extensive history of community involvement and currently is an infant mortality steering committee member at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.