In 1973 when Schatzi Kassal and her baby met pediatric surgeon Dr. Marc Rowe, Chief of the Department of Neonatology she learned for the first time of the tragic plight of preemies; babies born before full term. There were little or no resources for these tiny preterm babies. At that time, neonatal intensive care units were unheard of and the preemies did not have access to the specialized attention and procedures that they so desperately needed to survive.
“There were no ‘units,’ as we call them today,” Kassal said. “There was a little room in the hospital with seven tiny beds, and the mortality rate was huge, at 96 percent.” Rowe needed funds for research to investigate the causes for the astonishingly high rates of preemie mortality. He was researching a fatal intestinal disease Necrotizing Enterocolitis.
That same year, Kassal convinced 500 of her friends to donate $250 each to sponsor Rowe’s research and begin the 40+ year odyssey to build an organization that has raised more than $20 million and boasts 4,500 members. Project: New Born has become so all-encompassing that the NICU at Holtz Children’s Hospital bears its founder’s name–The Schatzi and Stanley Kassal Project: New Born Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Funds raised by Project: New Born go toward research, equipment, salaries of key personnel and advocacy programs for premature and high-risk babies.
In 2009, Project: New Born’s Neo (N = Nurturing Newborns; E = Empowering Families; O = Overcoming Odds) Network for Young Professionals became a viable new power group. These new young faces, with new ideas and new leadership, will fuel an exciting future that, when joined with the original stalwart band of members, will provide a remarkable success no less spectacular and memorable than the past 40+ years.
In May 2000, the University of Miami proudly announced the establishment of the Project: New Born Distinguished Chair in Neonatology honoring Dr. Eduardo Bancalari, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Neonatology. A Faculty Chair is granted to those most accomplished in their field and this endowment is used to support continued research. The Project: New Born Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is under the direction of Dr. Shahnaz Duara, Professor of Pediatrics. Dr. Charles Bauer, Professor of Pediatrics, is the Associate Director.
In 2007, a parent teaching program was established in loving memory of Sylvia S. Rosenthal, an outstanding teacher and devoted friend to the Project: New Born Preemies. This teaching program, “Parenting Your Preemie,” was developed and implemented to offer education to promote understanding of the essential role that parents play in the care of their preemie.