UAB’s Women & Infants Center celebrates 10 years in state-of-the-art building

Ten years after moving into a world-class facility, UAB’s women’s health services are helping more women than ever.

In 2010, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medicine made a significant change in the care provided to one of its largest patient populations — women and infants.

Ten years ago, UAB relocated all women’s and infants’ services from various locations across UAB’s medical campus to a brand-new, 10-story, 430,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility aptly named the Women & Infants Center. For the first time in UAB’s history, the full spectrum of women’s care was under the same roof, including services such as general obstetrics and gynecology, reproductive endocrinology and fertility, reproductive care, high-risk maternity, and labor and delivery, as well as urogynecology and gynecologic cancer services and surgeries.

“Women and Infants programs have continued to grow over the past ten years, and the pride that was obvious when the Center opened in 2010 is still present today,” said Terri Poe, R.N., DNP, chief nursing officer of UAB Hospital.

Laura Money, R.N., a nurse in UAB’s Women & Infants Center, remembers the collaborative involvement and spirit that was involved to make the new facility a reality, one that involved recommendations from staff of all levels.

“We were given the opportunity to shape women’s care directly through the planning of the building,” Money said. “For instance, we were able to ensure small things such as every maternity evaluation unit room’s having a private bathroom, that labor and delivery rooms could accommodate family and friends to join in the delivery, and big things like improving the flow of the operating rooms, which allowed us to get moms to the operating room fast and the smallest babies to the RNICU even faster.”

“We have created a working and healing environment that 10 years later is still ‘oooed and ahhhhed’ at,” she said. “I will forever be grateful for the experience of planning this building that has become ‘home’ to so many staff and allows a great team of clinicians to provide life-giving and healing care in an environment that matches our spirit and dedication.” 

WICInfographicAdvancing care for all women

In the decade since all women’s services relocated to the Women & Infants Center, UAB has made considerable advancements and milestones, including:

  • More than 75,000 unique patients seen
  • More than 41,000 deliveries
  • 1,282 sets of twins
  • 70 sets of triplets, six sets of quadruplets and two sets of quintuplets
  • More than 500 babies from in vitro fertilization
  • 27,741 patients seen for gynecologic cancers
  • 16,014 patients seen for urogynecologic conditions

“The largest way that the Women & Infants Center has enhanced women’s care is the ability to provide comprehensive women’s care in one facility,” explained Todd Jenkins, M.D., interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “What makes UAB special is that an obstetric patient can see her primary OBGYN, receive consultations from high-risk OB physicians, undergo detailed ultrasound exams, attend prenatal classes, and be seen for emergent, labor, delivery and postpartum visits all within the center’s walls. The Women & Infants Center has allowed us to grow and serve all patients without limitations.”

Jenkins’ point rings true for all types of women seeking care, be she a woman with an ovarian cancer diagnosis who can see her physician, undergo chemotherapy, receive nutrition counseling, and participate in group and supportive therapy in one place, or a fertility patient who can complete all aspects of her reproductive care in a comfortable, familiar environment. The access and care that can be provided in one singular space is an aspect of care that continues to separate UAB OBGYN and women’s services from others in Birmingham, Alabama and nationally.

In addition to providing care for women in outpatient and inpatient settings, the Women & Infants Center is home to the nationally recognized Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. While it has always been a preeminent department with respect to teaching, research and service to the community, the Women & Infants Center provided the Department of OBGYN with world-class facilities to augment its existing program. OBGYN offices reside on the 10th floor of the Women & Infants Center, allowing physicians to be in proximity to patients in clinic, in labor, in surgery or those undergoing chemo on floors in the same facility.

Infant care and support

Beyond caring for women of all backgrounds, ages and needs, the Women & Infants Center is home to the only American Academy of Pediatrics-designated Level IV Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Alabama and the step-down Continuing Care Nursery unit. These units care for more than 1,300 babies annually who are born too soon or have complications, providing the highest and most comprehensive level of care available.

Neonatologists from UAB’s Department of Pediatrics care for babies of all needs in the 120-bed, private room facilities located on the same floor as labor and delivery services. Proximity ensures a quick and smooth transfer of babies to immediate care after high-risk deliveries, with moms also able to recover post-birth in the same building as their newborns.

The flow of the RNICU and CCN in conjunction with the rest of the Women & Infants Center was intentionally designed to maximize time, improve outcomes and connect mothers with their babies throughout their stay of care.

“The facility’s design supports the multidisciplinary, family-centered model of care we provide at UAB,” commented neonatologist Wally Carlo, M.D., director of the Division of Neonatology, after the 2010 move to the Women & Infants Center. “Should problems arise, these babies will have a better chance of surviving than infants born in less well-equipped facilities.”

Supporting Birmingham and beyond

While the Women & Infants Center has been the hub of operations and focal point of growth in the past 10 years, UAB is aiming to expand services to women in their communities beyond the Center’s downtown walls with offices in the UAB Medicine locations at Gardendale, Hoover and Leeds. Additionally, OBGYN care is provided in offices in the Western, Eastern and Central Jefferson County Health Department clinics and the Blount County Health Department.

As it is an academic medical center, there are countless programs, treatments and clinical trial opportunities within UAB that can benefit patients in the city, region and state. For instance, physicians and administrators at UAB work closely with affiliate institutions in the Birmingham area and across the state to improve the care women receive by offering eligible women the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research and receive novel therapies for their conditions. These partnerships help extend lifesaving and life-changing care for women who may not otherwise have access to additional medical opportunities.

Other unique programs offered to patients at UAB and women in Alabama include but are not limited to:

  • Telemedicine Programs for Maternal Fetal Medicine Care: furthering access to UAB experts for women in rural communities
  • Fetal Palliative Care and Perinatal Loss Bereavement Programs: helping parents and families prepare for and cope with infant loss
  • Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology: supporting young girls and women in their gynecologic journey and with their specific needs
  • Preventive Care and Genetic Counseling Program for Women’s Cancer: providing comprehensive risk assessment and prevention care for women and their cancer risk
  • Baby-Friendly Hospital Designation: providing new mothers with skills, resources and help on their breastfeeding journey
  • Comprehensive Ovarian Program: centralizes important ancillary aspects of ovarian cancer care for patients and their families, including genetic and nutritional counseling and supportive care
  • National Association for Continence Accreditation for Pelvic Floor Disorders: excellence recognition for specialization in women’s pelvic floor reconstruction
  • Cooling Cap Technology: available for chemotherapy patients who wish to help patients keep their hair during treatment
  • Comprehensive Addiction in Pregnancy Program: the only program in Alabama helping to engage pregnant, addicted mothers-to-be with a sober pregnancy and postpartum life

The next 10 years of UAB women’s care

While the accomplishments of the past 10 years in the Women & Infants Center span across five clinical and research divisions, two infant-centered clinical units and scores of physicians, researchers and nurses, and UAB physicians and leadership are looking toward continuing to grow and improve the ways patients are cared for in the Women & Infants Center.

“Our mission is to improve the lives of the women we serve,” Jenkins said. “We do this through clinical care, groundbreaking research and educating the health care providers of tomorrow. It is our hope that we can not only help women here in the Women & Infants Center, but that we can continue to reach out into the community and the state to improve the health of the citizens.”