In the early 1970’s a new concept was born in Syracuse, NY, “High Risk Obstetrics.” This concept was later divided into the two specialties of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Neonatology. Neonatal Intensive Care Units were established, maternal and neonatal transports grew out of this need to provide services for the high risk mother and baby at the most appropriate level of care.
But what was happening in Georgia? In 1973, Dr. John D. Thompson, Director of The High Risk Maternal Health Care Study, published a manual road mapping better birth outcomes for Georgians, “Building A Maternal Health Care System For Georgia.” This study was co-sponsored by the Governor’s Council on Maternal & Infant, Department of Human Resources and the Regional Perinatal Centers. And in the early 1970’s, 28 weeks was thought to be the age of viability.
The need for education and research led to the simultaneous origin of Southern Perinatal Association (SPA) and Great Plains Organization. Some of the early members of SPA were Stan Graven, Lillian Blackman, and John Queenan. Although there was great fellowship and mind melting, we needed a national voice. National Perinatal Association was launched in 1976.
The Georgia Perinatal Association (GPA) was founded in 1977 during a period of rapid growth and realignment in Georgia. The first GPA officers were William Kanto, President; Micki Souma, Vice President; Jane Kimbel, Secretary; and Doug Bruce, Treasurer who held office and established the original by-laws in 1978-1979.
The association was incorporated in 1980 and obtained 501c6 status in 1984. In 2014, GPA was awarded an education foundation arm and has applied for 501c3 status for this additional program.
Many changes have occurred in Georgia since the inception of GPA. The M&I council was repealed, Public Health emerged as a separate program, interconception care and assisted reproduction technology along with numerous technological advances in maternal and neonatal medicine have been added to the landscape of perinatal care. The infant born at 23 weeks of gestation is our new viability number.
GPA is a unique cross-disciplinary group of professionals. Throughout its distinguished history, GPA has had a profound impact on perinatal health in Georgia. It was one of the leaders in the effort to regionalize perinatal health services and develop expertise and capacity at specialized centers strategically located across the state. GPA was an advocate for improvements in Georgia’s Medicaid program, helping to expand eligibility for pregnant women and infants, pushing public health to ensure the capacity to deliver well baby services across the state, expand newborn screening and improve the educational resources and training of perinatal health care professionals. Through partnerships with other organizations, GPA has participated in a multitude of efforts to improve perinatal health in a state which is challenged by poor maternal health and higher than average infant mortality.