CDC chief's presentation sheds light on rise in maternal mortality

May 4, 2018
William Callaghan, MD, MPH delivers the 2018 Sreedhar Gaddipati, MD Memorial Lecture.
William Callaghan, MD, MPH delivers the 2018 Sreedhar Gaddipati, MD Memorial Lecture.

William Callaghan, MD, MPH, Chief of the Maternal and Infant Health Branch in the Division of Reproductive Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delivered a highly informative presentation on maternal health to the Ob/Gyn department at CUIMC for this year’s Sreedhar Gaddipati, MD Memorial Lecture.

Dr. Callaghan’s presentation focused on the rise of maternal mortality over the past several decades in the United States, specifically among women of color and non-Hispanic Black women. His presentation shed light on the complications of tracking this public health crisis, and underscored the importance of state- and city-based maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) in preventing maternal deaths. Where review of available data from death certificates can be opaque, difficult to track, and even incorrect, MMRCs go beyond vital statistics and provide an accurate national picture for trends and causes of death.

“We need to aspire to something greater,” Dr. Callaghan said. “There is no acceptable rate of maternal mortality.”

Although the rate of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity has risen across all demographics of women, non-Hispanic Black women have seen a disproportionate increase across all income levels and education levels, which Dr. Callaghan attributed in part to systemic racism.

“There is nothing embedded in a person’s race that explains the disparity we see between the rate of maternal mortality for black women and for white women,” Dr. Callaghan said.

During his presentation to a room of around 85 faculty, residents, fellows, and staff members in the Ob/Gyn department, Dr. Callaghan recognized the significant contributions many of the Ob/Gyn faculty at CUIMC have made to advancing research in this area, specifically those of Dr. Gaddipati.

William Callaghan, MD, MPH delivered the 2018 Sreedhar Gaddipati, MD Memorial Lecture

This annual Sreedhar Gaddipati, MD lecture is dedicated to the legacy of Dr. Gaddipati, who was, and remains, an important figure in the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons medical education program. The lecture was established by a generous donation from the Gaddipati family to honor this exceptional teacher and role model, esteemed and beloved physician, revered colleague, and dear friend to the department, who passed away unexpectedly on August 7, 2013.

Dr. Gaddipati joined Columbia University in 2003 as a Clinical Assistant Professor in Maternal-Fetal Medicine and became the Director of Critical Care Obstetrics. He received numerous teaching awards and honors, including the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology National Faculty Award for Excellence in Resident Education in 2000, 2003, and 2005.

Dr. Callaghan is the Chief of the Maternal and Infant Health Branch in the Division of Reproductive Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this position he provides scientific leadership to a group dedicated to research and public health surveillance in the areas of maternal morbidity and mortality, infant morbidity and mortality, preterm delivery, and pregnancy complications, particularly as they relate to subsequent risks of chronic disease. During his tenure at CDC, he has been an author on numerous peer-reviewed papers, presented his work in the field of maternal and infant health at national meetings, and provided technical assistance to states engaged in the identification and review of maternal deaths.