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Assistant Professor of Family Medicine Jesus Ruiz, MD, has published an “Innovations in Primary Care” article in Annals of Family Medicine addressing the community impact on UNC Chatham Hospital’s Maternity Care Center.

The article, “Closing the Gap: How a Community Effort Can Improve Rural Maternity Care,” addresses how UNC Chatham Hospital, a critical access hospital in Siler City, North Carolina, collaborated with UNC Family Medicine, the Chatham Health Department, nonprofits and various local and state organizations to establish a Level-1 maternity care center in 2020 to provide patient-centered, culturally and linguistically appropriate care to the local community to address barriers to care for pregnant individuals in rural areas.

Disparities in care for rural areas are greater in minority communities, with Black women in the United States nearly three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women. Chatham Maternity Care Center is run by a diverse group of clinicians, with obstetric care provided by family medicine physicians with obstetrical and surgical training, certified nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

Ruiz discusses the many challenges of the past 3+ years, with difficulties in staff recruitment and retention, plus low delivery volume at the center exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The center was able to thrive in this situation due to community and media support, which helped engage the health system and partner entities to secure private and public funding and political support to sustain this critical service. The innovative model of care, with an emphasis on continuity and community delivery, has garnered positive patient satisfaction and brought attention to health inequities, leading to increased support and resources for the community.

“I am very thankful to my patients for trusting me with the care of their families, welcoming me into the community, and allowing me to grow with them over the past three years,” Ruiz said. “I am excited to continue to learn and grow with them at Chatham Hospital and Piedmont Health Services Siler City Community Health Center.”