Cynthia Bearer, MD, PhD, is a nationally recognized children’s health expert and serves as Chief of the Division of Neonatology at UMCH and is the Mary Gray Cobey Professor of Neonatology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. We talked with Dr. Bearer about plans to expand the NICU—and how the cutting-edge unit will help the hospital’s neonatal care to reach new heights.
Would you describe some of the key patient-centric features in the new NICU?
CB: Absolutely. First and foremost, every one of our babies will have their own room, so their families can stay with them. Each room will reflect the environment that’s appropriate for babies at this very early stage of development. For example, because the neonatal brain can absorb only so much stimuli, the room will include special systems that filter and adjust loud noise and bright light. And since these babies may be with us for awhile, we’ll decorate each room in a neutral way, allowing parents to bring in their baby’s personal effects and make the room their “own.”
So this will be a very supportive environment for both babies and their families?
CB: That’s exactly right—supporting families is one of our main goals. With that in mind, we’ll offer things like a family lounge area with a kitchenette and a play area especially for siblings. In addition, we’re partnering with our Integrative Medicine and Psychiatry colleagues to develop programs such as a mom’s support group, to help lessen the feelings of depression and isolation that can crop up during these stressful times.
How does the project fit with UMMC’s strong commitment to sustainability?
CB: All along the way, we have adhered to the principles of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED—a nationwide green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. And through our observance of these principles, we’ll also reduce our need now and in the future for toxic substances. For instance, our new floors will consist of a sustainable material that doesn’t require stringent cleaning chemicals. In the end, we expect to receive one of the highest certifications offered by the LEED program.