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Conference Brought Controversies in Care to the Forefront

Last Updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013

Preeclampsia is a complex disorder that often confounds even the most skilled clinicians, and there are very few postgraduate courses offered on this subject. One of the missions of the Preeclampsia Foundation is to fill this gap by facilitating healthcare provider education on the subject with the aim of improving health care practices. Almost every year since the inception of Saving Grace, the Foundation has sponsored a major continuing medical education event for healthcare providers in that region. 

Dr. Kimberly K. Leslie, Dr. Thomas Easterling, Dr. Ananth Karumanchi, and Dr. James N. Martin, Jr.

There was an added dimension to this year's CME course. Taking Saving Grace - A Night of Hope to Iowa City gave us the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy. On the eve of Saving Grace, we announced that we would underwrite the net cost of the all-day continuing medical education conference that was jointly sponsored by the Preeclampsia Foundation, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and the NIH Sponsored University of Iowa Women's reproductive Health Research Career Development Center. The day's program was titled "Controversies in the Care of Women with Preeclampsia, a National Debate." 

For the 161 clinicians from 15 states and Canada, the real highlights of this post graduate course were the opportunity to hear from nationally known experts in preeclampsia research and clinical practice: Drs. James N. Martin, Jr., Thomas Easterling and Ananth Karumanchi, who are all members of the Preeclampsia Foundation's Medical Advisory Board. Martin had spent a week as a visiting professor at the University's medical college before presenting that morning about the "Diagnosis and Management of Severe Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome." Easterling covered "Controversies in the Treatment of Hypertension in Preeclampsia." And Karumanchi spoke about discoveries in "Angiogenesis and Biomarkers" needed for preeclampsia. 

After a lively Q&A session with these experts, the lunchtime discussions included continued debate about the cutting edge issues in preeclampsia. The afternoon spotlight was on the eagerly anticipated "Guidelines for Hypertension in Pregnancy" due out from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in November. This was followed by Dr. Christie Thomas's presentation on Biogenesis and Regulation of sFlt1 (an anti-angiogenic protein involved in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia) and several new research presentations by the University's residents.

Presentation handouts can be viewed online.

The University of Iowa was in an excellent position to organize and administer this type of event in 2013. This year's event was especially meaningful because one of the organizers of the conference was Dr. Mark Santillan, our 2012 Vision Grant recipient. Also to be recognized are Dr. Kimberly K. Leslie, who headed the planning committee and is Chair of the UI Department of Ob/Gyn; and Dr. Thomas Gellhaus, course co-director, who is Director of the UI Division of Ob/Gyn. 

It was through the Vision Grant that Dr. Mark Santillan, a young researcher, got a boost to pursue his interest in investigating preeclampsia. He is now, not only on a path for a brilliant research career, but also is engaging his colleagues in improving health outcomes for women with preeclampsia and for their babies. The enthusiasm of Mark and his wife and lab partner, Dr. Donna Santillan, to support the Preeclampsia Foundation and the Foundation's local volunteers was demonstrated by their co-chairing the 2013 Saving Grace - A Night of Hope committee with John and Brenda Warner of Walcott, Iowa. 

As well as financially underwriting the event, the Preeclampsia Foundation helped to assemble this group of world-renowned experts in the field of preeclampsia to address controversies and discuss the science and art of managing preeclampsia. After a day of learning, sharing, and networking with healthcare providers, Saving Grace - A Night of Hope was doubly meaningful to the 350 who attended. 

The Preeclampsia Foundation sincerely thanks all the many participants who helped to create two amazing events in Iowa City. Friday, October 18, 2013, created a lasting impression. The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics is a center of preeclampsia knowledge and a resource of excellence for women needing care for hypertension during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Future provisions of the Foundation, in the form of Vision Grants and educational programs, will continue to cultivate research and the application of knowledge throughout the US and, perhaps, the world!

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