Overview

In June of 2015, the March of Dimes joined with the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Duke to launch the fifth prematurity research center aimed exclusively at finding the unknown causes of premature birth. This demonstrates the commitment and enthusiasm of accomplished directors, investigators and faculty as they come together in this transdisciplinary and cross-institutional effort to solve the mysteries of premature birth. This team will collaborate with the other four centers as they pursue the challenging questions of what causes premature birth, and specifically address five interrelated transdisciplinary research themes around gene regulation.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. 

In 2003, March of Dimes launched a national prematurity campaign to understand the most important threat to a newborn’s health—premature birth. In 2011, the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University was established to work toward eradicating prematurity.  Two years later, in 2013, the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative was established, bringing together a transdisciplinary team of leading researchers from universities and medical centers throughout the state of Ohio.  In 2014, the March of Dimes established two new prematurity research centers at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis. 

In 2015, the latest March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center launched at the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Duke, bringing the total to five prematurity research centers. These centers represent over 300 researchers at more than 20 universities, hospitals and medical centers collaborating together on 19 different research themes.

The March of Dimes is going into its eighth decade celebrating its ongoing work to help all babies get a healthy start. More than 4 million babies were born in the United States and the March of Dimes has helped each and every one through community programs, advocacy, research, education, and support programs for moms, babies and families.

Read the 2014 Annual Report

Read the 2013 Annual Report

Download 2012 Annual Report PDF (5.2 MB)

Download 2011 Annual Report PDF (4.7 MB)

Meet our Leadership Team and Co-Investigators

Together with the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Duke’s leadership team, faculty researchers and staff, the March of Dimes leadership team helps to shape the team’s direction, evaluate the ongoing research progress and provide the necessary funding.

Leadership Team

Stacey Davis Stewart joined the March of Dimes Foundation as President-Elect on November 7, 2016 and will take over as President on January 1, 2017. In this role, Ms. Stewart will promote a global strategy around the organization’s mission to give all babies a healthy start. She will be responsible for leading all aspects of the organization’s strategy, vision and operations.

Stewart comes to March of Dimes from United Way Worldwide, where she held several positions, most recently serving as U.S. President. At United Way, she provided strategic direction in driving community impact, revenue, and enhancing the organization’s brand. Prior to becoming U.S. President, Stewart served as Executive Vice President, Community Impact Leadership and Learning at United Way.

A business veteran, Stewart also has held a number of senior roles, including Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President for the Office of Community and Charitable Giving at Fannie Mae, as well as President and Chief Executive Officer for the Fannie Mae Foundation.

Ms. Stewart has a master's of business administration in finance from the University of Michigan and a bachelor of arts in economics from Georgetown University. She also holds honorary degrees from Trinity University, Morgan State University, Texas Southern University, Lincoln University, and Alabama A&M University. She currently serves on several boards nationally and in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

Ms. Stewart is married to Jarvis C. Stewart, the Chairman and Managing Partner of I + R Media, LLC a strategic communications firm based in Washington, D.C. The Stewarts have two children, Madeleine and Savannah.

Michael Katz, M.D., is Senior Advisor, Transdisciplinary Research, at March of Dimes Foundation and a member of the Foundation’s President’s Leadership Council and Executive Committee. A colleague since 1992, he has also served as the Foundation’s Vice President of Research, and until recently, Senior Vice President of Research and Global Programs. Dr. Katz has had a long and distinguished career in which his expertise and counsel have been sought after, and his contributions repeatedly recognized as invaluable, by dozens of boards, committees, and medical societies around the world. He currently serves on the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee of EURO, the Committee on Human Rights of The National Academies, as Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council of the INTERGROWTH Project at the University of Oxford, and as the Reuben S. Carpentier Professor, Emeritus of Pediatrics, at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Joe Leigh Simpson, M.D. FACOG, FACMG, became Senior Vice President for Research and Global Programs at March of Dimes Foundation in 2012. Certified in Obstetrics/Gynecology as well as Medical Genetics, he previously held academic positions at Northwestern University, University of Tennessee Memphis, and Baylor College of Medicine, serving as a Chairman of Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology for 20 years. Immediately prior to joining March of Dimes, he was Founding Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Florida International University College of Medicine. Dr. Simpson is a productive and prolific writer, researcher, and thought leader who has been recognized and honored for his myriad research accomplishments, especially in genetics of reproductive disorders and in genetic evaluations of pregnancies. His excellence as a physician and his accomplishments are highly regarded the world over. He has written almost 800 original articles and chapters and more than 30 books or edited works. He has on multiple occasions been an advisor for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee. He has served as President of seven major national or international organizations including the Society for Gynecological Investigation, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, American College of Medical Genetics, and at present International Federation of Fertility Societies (like March of Dimes, a Non-Governmental Organization in official relations with the World Health Organization). Since 1994, he has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. He has been a valued and inspirational colleague for the March of Dimes since 1983.

Program Director

Dr. Carole Ober, Ph.D., is the Blum-Riese Professor, Chair of the Department of Human Genetics, and a member of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Institute of Genomics and Systems Biology at the University of Chicago. Dr. Ober has studied the genetics of human reproduction and fertility traits for over 30 years. In 1986, she initiated a prospective study of pregnancy outcomes in Hutterite couples that is still ongoing. As part of these studies, her team characterized the role of matching for classical HLA alleles between partners on reproductive outcome, elucidated the effects of maternal HLA-G genotypes on fetal loss rates, and conducted the first genome-wide association study (GWAS) of male fertility. In addition, she was principal investigator on the “Recurrent Miscarriage (REMIS) Study” from 1992–99, the only NIH-funded multicenter clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of paternal mononuclear cell immunization as a treatment for recurrent miscarriage, and has conducted genetic studies of recurrent miscarriage and preeclampsia in Chicago area patients. Her current studies integrate gene expression and eQTL mapping in endometrial cells with genetic studies of fertility to identify functional variants that influence pregnancy outcome. She is a member of the NIH Infectious, Reproductive, Asthma, and Pulmonary Conditions (IRAP) Study Section, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She received her M.A. and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

Co-Investigators

Haywood Brown, M.D. is the professor and chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University Medical Center. He has served as the Co-Medical Director for the Indianapolis Healthy Babies Project and was active with the Indiana Perinatal Network, which is dedicated to decreasing infant mortality and the racial disparity for infant mortality. He has also chaired the steering committee for the District of Columbia National Institutes of Health Initiative on Infant Mortality Reduction. Dr. Brown is especially committed to the care of women at high risk for adverse pregnancy outcome, particularly those disadvantaged. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine and is past President of the Society. He is past President of the American Gynecological Obstetrical Society (AGOS). He also served as a Director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Brown is immediate past president of the North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and is currently District IV Chair of ACOG.

Dr. Greg Crawford, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Division of Medical Genetics and a member of the Center for Genomics and Computational Biology at Duke University. Dr. Crawford specializes in mapping and characterizing active regulatory elements. He pioneered a high-throughput method (DNase-seq) to identify all DNase I HS sites across the genome, which accurately mark all types of active gene regulatory elements, including promoters, enhancers, silencers, insulators, locus control regions, active histone modifications and most transcription factor binding sites. This technology is robust, highly reproducible and can be performed on any cell type from any species with a sequenced genome. Dr. Crawford was principal investigator of an ENCODE grant to map all DNase I HS sites throughout the human genome from 100 diverse human cell types, including immortalized, primary, induced pluripotent stem cells, cells exposed to environmental insults, and intact frozen tissues. He has extensive expertise in working with cells that are difficult to isolate, requiring optimized conditions, as well as cell types that are rare and of very low number. Dr. Crawford has participated in studies to identify DNA variants that alter chromatin accessible (i.e., chromatin QTLs), which provides a direct mechanism to how non-coding DNA variants lead to altered gene expression. In addition, Dr. Crawford has extensive experience in performing ATAC-seq, which is an orthogonal assay to identify regulatory elements that requires as little as 10 mg. of frozen tissue. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and did his postdoctoral work at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Dr.William Grobman, M.D., M.B.A., is the Arthur Hale Curtis Professor and vice-chair in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Grobman is a maternal-fetal medicine physician whose research has been focused on prediction and prevention of adverse obstetric health outcomes. His studies have included evaluations of sleep abnormalities and premature birth, chronic stress and premature birth, and progesterone supplementation and premature birth. Additionally, he has served as a principal investigator at Northwestern on multiple multicenter collaborations, including the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, the National Standard for Normal Fetal Growth, the nuMoM2b study, and a study of asthma in pregnancy, all of which involved the analysis of specimens collected longitudinally during pregnancy. Dr. Grobman received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his M.B.A. in health services administration and decision sciences from the Kellogg School of Management.

Dr. John “Jack” Kessler, M.D., is the Ken and Ruth Davee Professor of stem cell biology in the Department of Neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr. Kessler investigates stem cell biology and approaches to regeneration of damaged or diseased organs. He began his studies of the basic biology of neurotrophic factors in both the developing and adult nervous system more than 30 years ago. He later translated this work into clinical trials of recombinant growth factors for neuropathy followed by a recent successful multicenter gene therapy trial in diabetic neuropathy. He began studying the basic biology of neural stem cells more than 25 years ago with a specific focus on defining mechanisms governing commitment of the cells to the neuronal and glial lineages. His studies of embryonic stem cells began almost 15 years ago, and he was granted one of three NIH Centers of Excellence in human embryonic stem cell research. More recently, he was granted an NIH P30 grant to support his work with induced pluripotent stem cells. He is also a co-principal investigator on an NIH Biophysical Research Partnership to utilize bionanotechnology to enhance recovery after damage to the nervous system. He was chairman of the Davee Department of Neurology for 12 years and is an active clinician as well as a stem cell biologist. He is the author of more than 270 scientific publications. He has won numerous awards, including a Peabody Award for his 2007 documentary film Terra Incognita: The Perils and Promise of Stem Cell Research. Dr. Kessler received his A.B. degree from Princeton University and his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College.