J Michael StraughnJ. Michael Straughn, Jr., M.D.J. Michael Straughn, Jr. M.D., has been appointed vice chair of Quality and Patient Safety for the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Straughn is a professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and a senior scientist in UAB’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center and Center for Women’s Reproductive Health. He is also the fellowship director for the Gynecologic Oncology program and the Associate Chief Medical and Quality Officer for UAB’s Women and Infants Services.

In an effort to improve the quality and safety of patient care delivered at UAB, the Department of OB/GYN established a Section of Quality and Patient Safety. This section will be an important facilitator of efforts needed to achieve and maintain departmental and health system goals.

“Going forward, it is imperative that this department serves as a leader in quality care in women's health, both in the state and nationally,” says Warner Huh, M.D., FACOG, FACS, professor and chair of the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We need to set the standard and expectations for the state of Alabama, and quality care needs to be the foundation for the department's tripartite mission.”

Most clinical academic departments have quality improvement (QI) committees that are responsible for tracking complications, performing case reviews, and holding morbidity and mortality conferences. However, these committees are not always structured to handle the implementation of practice change.

The Department of OB/GYN’s Section of Quality and Patient Safety will be key to ensure unbeatable patient care practices and consistent improvements on both department and hospital levels.

“I am honored to be named the vice chair of Quality and Patient Safety for the Department of OB/GYN. Addressing patient outcomes has been a passion of mine for over a decade,” says Straughn. “I am excited to collaborate with nursing and physician leadership within the department and the School of Medicine to continue to improve the quality and safety of the exceptional care that we provide our patients.”

As vice chair, Straughn will lead a group of faculty who have the ability to implement and promote practice change. He will lead and create new quality initiatives, increase departmental representation on quality committees, create training and career development opportunities for faculty and trainees, and monitor the quality and safety efforts in the department.

“All of us are familiar with his leadership and commitment in the area of quality in women's health,” says Huh. “Without question, he and his team have been instrumental in the department's approach and strategy in regard to quality care and patient safety.”

AshleyBattarbee Ashley Battarbee, M.D., MSCRIn partnership with other physicians across the country, faculty and clinicians from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) and Center for Women’s Reproductive Health (CWRH) conducted a study evaluating pregnant individuals’ attitudes toward COVID-19 illness and vaccination from Aug. 2020 to Dec. 2020 – just before the vaccine was available in the United States.

The study, titled “Attitudes toward COVID-19 illness and COVID-19 vaccination among pregnant women: a cross-sectional multicenter study during August-December 2020” surveyed a cross-section of pregnant people in the cities of Salt Lake City, New York, and Birmingham, Ala.

Participants were asked about their concerns related to COVID-19 illness and the likelihood of them choosing to be vaccinated.

“Overall, I think this study shows that there is a significant amount of vaccine hesitancy among pregnant people in the U.S., as less than half of participants stated that they would be willing to be vaccinated during pregnancy,” says Ashley N. Battarbee, M.D., MSCR, assistant professor in the Division of Maternal and Fetal Medicine. “Additionally, we found important racial/ethnic differences among vaccine acceptability. Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic pregnant people were less willing to accept vaccination. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, motivation for both accepting and not accepting the vaccine was its effect on their unborn children. While protecting their fetus was the primary reason for accepting vaccination, concern about potential harm to their fetus was also the primary reason for vaccine hesitancy.”

Upon the initial development of the COVID-19 vaccine, hesitations and questions came as patients were unsure of the effects the vaccine could have on current or future fertility, as well as the fetus. However, as additional research has come to light, many women’s attitudes may have changed as more pregnant women have since been successfully vaccinated.

“The information suggests that there are specific considerations that must be taken into account when implementing COVID vaccination among pregnant people, namely the benefits and risks to unborn children,” says Battarbee. “It also demonstrates that special attention may be needed to address vaccine hesitancy in minority groups.”

Dr. Ashley Battarbee along with Akila Subramaniam, M.D., MPH, associate professor in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Alan Tita, M.D., Ph.D., director of the CWRH and associate dean for Global and Women’s Health, and Mickey Parks, N.P., advanced practice provider for research with the CWRH, were among the group of medical professionals that launched the study 2020.

Click here to read the full study.

SOAP COE Logo 01The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has been named a 2020 Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP) Center of Excellence (COE).

This designation is received by institutions and obstetric anesthesia programs that demonstrate excellence in obstetric anesthesia care.

“It is truly gratifying for our Labor and Delivery Unit to be recognized by the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology for excellence in anesthesia care. It is another testament to the outstanding care that our team of nurses, technicians, obstetricians, and anesthesiologists routinely provide to our patients every day," says Brian Casey, M.D., professor and director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The desingation is the result of unmatched teamwork among multiple areas within UAB.

"This was a collaborative effort through multiple departments, including Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Nursing, and Pediatrics," said Mark Powell, M.D., medical director of the obstetric anesthesia section.

2020 designees were named in March 2021 with designation remaining valid for four years.