Medical Professional Publications

Leading a State-Wide Effort to Prevent Prematurity

An Interview with OPRN Director, Mark Klebanoff, MD, MPH

After a 20-plus year career at the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, Mark A. Klebanoff, MD, MHP has joined The Research Institute to lead the Ohio Perinatal Research Network (OPRN), a collaboration between Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University to fight prematurity through innovation in research.

With Dr. Klebanoff’s leadership, clinicians and scientists will strive to examine risk factors, associated complications and ultimately the prevention of preterm births. The group’s first major initiative is to develop a perinatal research repository where clinical data and specimens from infants delivered prematurely and their mothers and/or fathers will be stored and used in current and future research.

In this interview with The Translator, Dr. Klebanoff discusses what attracted him to Nationwide Children’s and his role in coordinating this multi-center collaboration.

Why is prematurity research so important?  
Prematurity is a chronic problem in the United States and in Ohio and it seems to be getting more common.  It has a tremendous human cost and a tremendous economic cost. We are slowly understanding causes of prematurity, but by in large there are not a lot of things we can do in terms of prevention, and the specific things we can do work in a very select group of women.  There is a need for epidemiologic research which assimilates research at the population, clinical and laboratory levels in order to understand causes and to inform prevention strategies.

What attracted you to Nationwide Children’s?
I was impressed with the leadership, including Drs. Leif Nelin and Kelly Kelleher, who have expressed a serious commitment to improving pregnancy outcomes and to strengthening the research regarding prematurity.  I saw a real commitment and a good group of people.  I thought I could come here and help to integrate the groups and work across the disciplines and across the locations.   I have also known several of the leaders in Maternal Fetal Medicine at The Ohio State University for many years, in particular Dr. Jay Iams and Dr. Mark Landon.  

How do you see your role as OPRN director?
As OPRN director, I will oversee the work being done clinically and in the laboratories related to prematurity at both institutions.  I have a background in epidemiology, but I started my career as a pediatrician.  So I have the ability to understand how statisticians, population scientists and clinicians think; I believe this will be useful as we try to create a successful collaboration among everyone involved.

I also see myself as being a senior mentor to the younger faculty here.  My real goal is to make the people around me as good as they possibly can be.  If I can do that, we’ll have a well-functioning and well-funded operation.  

What makes OPRN unique?
We have an opportunity to integrate a collection of clinical and scientific data from parents and babies at multiple sites.  This has been attempted in a few places, but not many.  I believe we can develop a uniquely comprehensive resource for studying prematurity.  The long-term goal will be to involve all of Ohio in our data collection.  There is a lot of groundwork to be done, but I’m optimistic that we can bring together the different health systems in Columbus in this effort.

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