|Charlotte A. Hobbs
Dr. Hobbs is the Director of the Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention and the recipient of the Pamela D. Stephens Endowed Chair for Birth Defects Research and Chief of the Section of Birth Defects Research in the Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Why do you think the NBDPS is important?
As a pediatrician specializing in newborn care, I have the privilege of attending deliveries to provide care for neonates during their first moments and days of life. The birth of a baby can be such a joyous event; but, when something isn’t right with the mother or the baby, it can be devastating. Over the past 17 years, I’ve seen the birth of many babies born with major defects. The joy that comes with the birth of a healthy baby is replaced by concern and worry while the baby is stabilized and moved into special care. Parents often ask me why their baby was born with a birth defect. Sadly, the causes of most birth defects are unknown, and the families are left with uncertainty and worry that often lasts throughout a baby’s childhood and the later pregnancies of the mother. The NBDPS is a way for parents, doctors, and scientists to work together to learn the causes of birth defects so that more babies can be born healthy. If we know the causes of birth defects perhaps we will be better prepared to prevent them from happening in the future.
How have birth defects touched your own life?
On May 16, 1928, in a small farmhouse just outside Ottawa, the capital of Canada, a baby girl was born to Clifford and Maggie Hammond. The abdominal wall of the baby was not formed properly and the intestines of the baby were laying on top of the baby’s abdomen. The general physician, Dr. James, left Maggie’s bedside to tell Clifford that he had two options. One was to attempt to close the abdomen himself noting that he had never attempted this procedure or to transport the baby by horse and buggy to the hospital 20 miles away, but was not sure the baby would survive. Clifford and Dr. James chose the first option. Dr. James recalled an article in a medical journal he had just read the previous week describing the procedure. The baby girl, Margaret Edith survived but was very ill during most of her infancy and toddler years. Later, Edith married Robert Hobbs and they had seven pregnancies. Only 4 of the 7 pregnancies resulted in live born infants. Two of the 3 were miscarriages and 1 was a stillborn. I was one of the live born infants. It is our own personal encounters with birth defects and less than optimal pregnancy outcomes that often provide physicians and scientists with their passion to care for infants with birth defects and to investigate ways to minimize the impact of birth defects and other adverse pregnancy outcomes on future generations.
What are your major interests outside of work?
When I am not working as a clinician in newborn nurseries, or as a scientist in laboratory and conducting NBDPS, I enjoy taking piano lessons and learning to play piano (again), and training for endurance athletic events such as half marathons and sprint triathlons.
What is something you are really proud of and why?
I am most proud of my three children. I was never married until I was 35 and despite wanting to become pregnant immediately after we were married, we did not conceive without medical intervention. Each of our two pregnancies was such a special gift and resulted in birth to a healthy male and 29 months later, twins, a boy and a girl. I never take pregnancy or healthy pregnancy outcomes for granted; they are truly a miracle. Having the opportunity of nurturing my babies through childhood and now into their teen years has been a truly joyful experience. I am extremely proud of each of them.
What are your Research Interests?
Our research team is trying to find how maternal exposures such as micronutrient intake, diabetes, obesity, and smoking interact with genetic susceptibility to cause birth defects. Congenital heart defects are among the most common and serious birth defects. At Arkansas Children’s Hospital, heart doctors and surgeons work with our team to identify infants and their parents who can be part of the NBDPS. During the past 10 years, we have found factors in women that seem to increase the risk of having a baby with a heart defect. Now, we are trying to find more lifestyle and genetic factors that might increase the chance of having a baby with a heart defect.