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North Hills Monthly

Savor Pittsburgh Helps Give Pittsburgh’s Tiniest Babies a Healthy Start in Life

Jun 30, 2016 08:54AM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

Savor Pittsburgh, August 25, 2016

According to the March of Dimes, approximately 380,000 babies in the United States are born too soon every year–a number that has fortunately seen a steady decrease over the past number of years due to intervention, education and research.

Every year, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC attends to approximately 1,800 of these babies who require a little more medical attention after birth. These babies are admitted to their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU); one of the largest in Pennsylvania and a Level III unit staffed by highly trained neonatal specialists. As a regional referral center for high-risk maternal and fetal care, Magee provides physicians and hospitals across the tristate area with access to the highest level of resources, resulting in the best combination of care for patients. 

But these resources come at a financial cost, and that’s where the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation (MWRIF), a group of University of Pittsburgh researchers who are engaged in research of key physiological processes and diseases that span a woman's entire life cycle, steps in with fundraising efforts and events.

“It’s amazing, the support we receive from MWRIF in the fight for our early babies,” said Magee’s NICU clinical director, Suzy Guess. “Fundraising efforts from the group have allowed us to do more for our families during a stressful time. Over the past three years, the money raised has supported the purchase of NICView cameras. These cameras, which are attached to each individual incubator, allow the baby’s parents and families to have a constant, 24/7 connection to their little ones. 

“We’ve had families check in from seven countries outside of the United States, including as far as Singapore, and everyone just loves this extra amenity!” she added. 

The group’s largest annual fundraising effort, Savor Pittsburgh: A Celebration of Cuisine, is planned for Thursday, August 25, at Stage AE. “This night is an elegant evening of the region’s best chefs competing against each other and sharing their culinary delights, recipes and signature cocktails, as well as fantastic raffles and dancing to local band No Bad JuJu’s music,” explained Denise Wickline, events manager, MWRI. 

“When parents have a premature baby, there are many difficult decisions that have to be made,” she continued. “We hold events like Savor Pittsburgh to raise money to support our hospital’s staff and researchers. By working hand-in-hand with each other, our families ultimately benefit.”

Guess agreed. “Technology, medications and clinical care–all have advanced incredibly since I began in nursing more than 30 years ago. There are so many new avenues that have developed out of extensive research including thermal regulation, music therapy, nutrition, family support and counseling, and developmental care. We keep trying to do more and more for our parents through not only the addition of the incubator cameras and renovations to our ‘nesting’ rooms, but through further education and research.”

For foundation supporters Gina and Jim Anetakis, the dedicated work done by MWRIF alongside the clinical staff of Magee takes on a more personal meaning. In August 2012, the Anetakis’ daughter, Isabella, was born 13 weeks early, weighing a mere 2 pounds, 7 ounces. “It was an incredibly stressful time for us,” said Gina Anetakis. “Isabella was treated in the NICU for 75 days.

“Everything offered to us by Magee in conjunction with MWRIF–from birth to post-discharge care through the follow-up clinic–helped our daughter grow and thrive to become the fun little girl she is today,” she added. “The staff became our family and, by returning to NICU reunions and giving back by helping MWRIF, Magee has become a part of our family.”

Anetakis is proud to be involved with the MWRIF and the work that they do to help premature babies.  “What they are doing is amazing; right now, in fact, staff members are working to develop a tool to help guide parents with extremely early babies,” she said. The web-based app, which researchers are developing alongside students at Carnegie Mellon University, will help both parents-to-be and new parents of ‘preemies’ make educated decisions based on the conditions that they, or their children, are experiencing. 

“Family members have to make difficult decisions and right now there is nothing out there that gives them the best information, in one place, in order to make the best decisions,” Wickline added. “Magee’s NICU is state-of-the-art with the most up-to-date technology. Our mission is to create opportunities for the patients and their families in order to help them make valued decisions and to be as involved as they can while their child is in the NICU. We’re helping these babies have a healthy start in life.”

The Savor Pittsburgh VIP party, which allows for indoor access and seating all night, along with special hors d’oeuvres and top-shelf bar selections, begins at 5:30 p.m., with general admission at 6:30 p.m.

For more information about this event, visit or call 412-641-8950.