The obstetrical volume on our campus affords an opportunity for outcomes-based clinical research. Our faculty are philosophically dedicated to rigorous controlled trials intended to objectively evaluate principles of obstetrical care.
UT Southwestern Medical Center is currently one of 14 centers in the U.S. selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to participate in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network (MFMU). This national consortium focuses on health care outcomes of pregnant women and their infants. We have served as a member of this network since 1996.
Faculty from the maternal-fetal medicine division serve on many active network protocol subcommittees involving studies of preeclampsia, hypothyroidism, fetal monitoring, cesarean delivery, and prevention of cerebral palsy.
Brian Casey, M.D., one of our faculty members, served as chairman of the protocol subcommittee for the largest trial ever conducted by the network, involving 10,000 women screened for subclinical hypothyroidism and a $30 million national budget.
In addition to clinical trials, the division actively supports bench research on the initiation of human labor. Sponsored in part by an NIH program project grant, basic scientists in the department are conducting studies aimed at discovering the biological mechanisms that cause a pregnant woman to go into labor.
The objective of Dr. Lisa Halvorson’s Laboratory is to understand the neuroendocrine control of reproduction and the molecular mechanism that leads to the onset of fertility. In Dr. Mala Mahendroo’s Laboratory research focuses on understanding the process of birth itself in order to devise therapies to prevent preterm birth. And, Dr. R. Ann Word’s Laboratory is using molecular and cellular techniques to identify how the female reproductive tract changes during pregnancy, childbirth, and afterwards.
One of the components of the NIH program project is a tissue core laboratory that contains phenotypically well-characterized tissues from pregnant and non-pregnant women cared for on our services. These tissues are not only critically important for the laboratory research being conducted in the Department but also help to support research elsewhere on campus.