UMass Medical School celebrates 50th anniversary of newborn screening in Massachusetts

December 10, 2013
UMass Medical School celebrates the 50th anniversary of newborn screening
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Dr. Marvin Mitchell, Michelle A. Graveline, Madeleine M. Stout, Joyce A. Murphy

Newborn screening has touched the lives of nearly every person born in Massachusetts over the past five decades. That anniversary was celebrated at the State House on Dec. 9, when a proclamation from Gov. Deval L. Patrick declared Dec. 9-15 Newborn Screening Awareness Week in Massachusetts.

UMass Medical School, on behalf of the Department of Public Health, has operated the Massachusetts newborn screening program since 1997. In that time, more than 2.6 million babies born in Massachusetts have been screened for rare health conditions. Of them, more than 2,800 have tested positive for serious health conditions in the first days of life. UMass also runs screening programs in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

“The New England Screening Program is a wonderful example of our mission in action,” Joyce A. Murphy, executive vice chancellor of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, told the gathering within Nurses Hall.

Madeleine M. Stout, a 22-year-old college graduate, credited her “very normal life” to newborn screening, which identified her endocrine disorder within a week of her birth.

“It was all thanks to a single heel prick that changed my life.” She said. “You have changed my life, and you have changed thousands of other lives.”

Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary John W. Polanowicz said the partnership between the state’s only public medical school and state agencies has helped to ensure the screening program promotes the health and vitality of the state’s most vulnerable residents – newborn children.  

“With the support of experts from our Newborn Screening Advisory Committee, all of our birthing hospitals throughout the state and with UMass Medical School, we’ve built a program that has truly advanced both the science and the mission of newborn screening,” Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said.