Siddhartha Rodriguez and Jesus Romero visit baby Amanda at TWHT NICU

Expansion plans were announced at the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon & Neiman Marcus Fashion Presentation benefiting March of Dimes.

The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, an HCA Houston Healthcare affiliate, will soon become the nation’s first hospital with two March of Dimes Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Family Support Program coordinators. This program expansion marks a critical step toward ensuring every family with a critically ill or premature baby in Houston’s most-active NICU receives education, information and comfort when needed most.

The announcement was made today at the Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon & Neiman Marcus Fashion Presentation benefiting March of Dimes, which is poised to raise more than $2 million for the health of all moms and babies.

Set to take place in April, the expansion will add a second March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program coordinator at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas where more than 2,500 premature babies are born every year, more than any other Texas hospital.

The Woman’s Hospital of Texas first launched the March of Dimes program in 2010.

“At a time when families are coping with a range of emotions, the March of Dimes Family Support Program coordinator is a real calming and reassuring influence,” says Ashley McClellan, chief executive officer for The Woman’s Hospital of Texas.

After giving birth to her daughter Amanda at 24 weeks and three days, Siddhartha Rodriguez already understands the importance of the March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program® at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas.

“Having someone by our side means the world to us, especially when it comes to all the questions we have about our NICU journey,” she says. “We’re grateful for the support we are receiving from the March of Dimes program.”

Adding a second Family Support Program coordinator, a first for a U.S. hospital, marks another in a long line of achievements for The Woman’s Hospital of Texas. The facility opened in 1976 as the first in the Houston area focused exclusively on clinical care for women and newborns.

Last year, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas earned designation as a Level IV Advanced NICU by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The elevated status provides the highest level of acute care for the roughly two percent of premature and critically ill infants born earlier than 32 weeks gestation weighing less than 1,500 grams. The hospital was the first in Houston to earn the Baby-Friendly Hospital distinction from the World Health Organization and the United Nation’s Children Fund. It also launched Houston’s first full-service air and ground medical transport for high-risk Obstetrics and the city’s first pelvic floor therapy program.

“HCA Houston Healthcare stands with March of Dimes to deliver the best possible care for mothers and their babies,” said HCA Houston Healthcare Women’s Service Line Vice President Holly Elliott. “The hospital was named ‘Woman’s’ to reinforce its commitment to personalized care for each patient and this initiative certainly helps us achieve this goal.”

The March of Dimes NICU Family Support program® is available in more than 60 hospitals across the country, reaching more than 50,000 families every year.

“One in ten babies in the U.S. is born premature and for the third year in a row this rate continues to rise. March of Dimes is dedicated to providing the education and support needed to these families at a crucial time in their lives,” said Stacey D. Stewart, March of Dimes president and CEO. “By expanding March of Dimes staff at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, we’re not only providing additional resources to one of the nation’s largest NICU’s, but we are one step closer to ensuring we reach every single family in the NICU to improve their experience and aid in their transition home.”

The March of Dimes NICU Family Support® program is part of March of Dimes’ NICU Innovation initiative, which seeks to improve the long-term health outcome of NICU graduates by focusing on improving the families’ NICU experience. Since the inception of three NICU Family Support pilot programs in 2001, the initiative has expanded to 60 NICUs across 49 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.