Loma Linda University Children's Hospital physician awarded a March of Dimes Community Service Grant to improve the prenatal diagnosis of complex congenital heart defects

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Dr. Donna Goff is one of six recipients of the grant offered by the California Chapter of March of Dimes which will provide nearly $750,000 through 2018.

LLUCH patient, Marcus Volpe, now 10 months old, plays in his Riverside, CA home after successfully undergoing heart surgery at just 5 days old.

As the region’s only provider of pediatric cardiology services, it is our mission to serve this population...in the region to improve screening for congenital heart defects.

The March of Dimes California Chapter has announced that Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital (LLUCH) pediatric cardiologist, Donna Goff, MD, MS, has been awarded a community service grant titled “Improving the Prenatal Detection Rate of Complex Congenital Heart Disease in the Southern Inland Counties Regional Perinatal Program Region.” This grant will use existing databases combined with geographic information systems (GIS) to identify regions with lower rates of prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart defects (CHD). These data will then be used to understand the barriers to prenatal CHD diagnosis and provide outreach to improve the prenatal diagnosis rate.

According to Goff, “The prenatal detection rate of congenital heart defects is around 25 percent in the Inland Empire compared to 49 percent nationally, which ultimately leads to delayed treatment and worse outcomes for these babies. As the region’s only provider of pediatric cardiology services, it is our mission to serve this population and work collaboratively with obstetricians, radiologists and family practice physicians in the region to improve screening for congenital heart defects. Dramatically improving the congenital heart defect diagnosis rate will depend upon partnering with community physicians in a way that was previously unprecedented.”

Goff is one of six recipients of this multi-year community service grants program offered by the California Chapter of the March of Dimes. The grant program will provide nearly three quarters of a million dollars through 2018, and $250,000 of that will be distributed in the first year of this program, with the remainder of funds contingent upon demonstrated programmatic successes each year through 2018.

Funds from the March of Dimes will allow Goff and her colleagues at the LLU International Heart Institute and Perinatal Institute to continue to improve early detection of congenital heart defects in fetuses, such as Marcus Volpe who was born with d-transposition of the great arteries. Since Marcus’ congenital heart defect was detected early on in pregnancy, Goff and her team were able to monitor the fetus and provide specialized prenatal care.

“We were fortunate that our son’s condition was detected early,” said Erica Volpe. “We were scared at first, but we had time to establish a game plan. Dr. Goff explained everything to us and put us at ease as much as she could.”

Goff diagnosed Marcus at 21 weeks gestation which allowed regular fetal echocardiograms throughout Volpe’s pregnancy to closely monitor him and provide time to coordinate his postnatal care with the multidisciplinary team including maternal fetal medicine, neonatology and pediatric cardiac surgery to ensure a safe and successful delivery with specialized care in the LLUCH neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after birth.

Marcus was born April 14, 2014. At 5 days old, he was strong enough to have the surgery that would repair his heart, which was performed by renowned cardiothoracic surgeon, Leonard Bailey, MD, surgeon in chief at LLUCH. At 9 days old, Marcus was able to go home with his family in Riverside, Calif. Now 10 months old, Marcus is thriving, doing everything a baby his age should be doing.

“Everyone is amazed at how well he is doing,” Volpe boasted of her son. “You would never know he has been through what he’s been through.” Had Marcus’ condition gone undetected, its uncertain if the outcome would have been the same, but Volpe and her family feel lucky and are thankful Goff detected Marcus’ heart defect when she did.

“Dr. Goff is amazing,” says Volpe. “She wants the best for these heart warriors no matter what. It’s no surprise that she has earned a grant from the March of Dimes.”

Goff and the other five grantees were selected from more than 40 concept papers by the March of Dimes State Program Services Committee, which is made up of leading medical and public health professionals representing different regions in California. The projects are receiving funds in order to increase and enhance prenatal care, to provide pre- and inter-conception efforts, as well as improve screening and diagnosis of heart birth defects. Programs target diverse, underserved female populations, including those women who are incarcerated, as well as the Latina, Pacific Islanders, and African-American communities.

“These grants are launching new programs or expanding existing ones with the funds provided by March of Dimes,” said March of Dimes State Program Services committee chair Dr. James Byrne, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “Many initiatives would not move forward without this funding. Community Grant recipients provide great beta tests which lay the groundwork to scale future efforts.”

**Additional photos available upon request.

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Briana Pastorino
Loma Linda University
since: 08/2009
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