Patient Partner Gathering Focused on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity

Our patient partners told us they would like to focus more on maternal mortality and morbidity, so we invited Dr. Shari Lawson to present on the topic to the group on Wednesday, July 27. Dr. Lawson is the Division Director of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Additionally, she is the Assistant Dean of Medical Student Affairs and Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. With her extensive background in reproductive health, Dr. Lawson is a perfect candidate to discuss maternal mortality and morbidity.

In her presentation, Dr. Lawson discussed the statistics on maternal morbidity (illness during or shortly after pregnancy) and mortality (death during or shortly after delivery) and paid special attention to significant differences, when looking at race, in this division of medicine. When considering only Black or Indigenous women in the United States, the percentage of births resulting in maternal mortality is comparable to still-developing nations. Data on the CDC website reveal that in 2020, US maternal mortality for non-Hispanic Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, nearly three times the rate for non-Hispanic White women. Dr. Lawson noted that multiple factors contribute to poor outcomes surrounding maternity – lower quality of care for these marginalized populations, less access to hospitals or other healthcare institutions, racial bias within the healthcare system itself – all of which are results of systemic racism.

This presentation led to intense discussion among attendees, including clinicians, researchers, patient partners, and PaTH staff. A few attendees shared their personal experiences with racism in healthcare, especially regarding maternal health. Potential future PaTH projects were discussed, some including Dr. Lawson’s work and others suggesting a collection of stories in Story Booth about maternal health. Dr. Lawson is submitting a research proposal to try to reduce adverse outcomes for women who give birth, and our team is excited about the potential to collaborate. Keep an eye out for upcoming PaTH work with this topic at its center!

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