Sidney Kimmel Medical College Students Present Research on Improving Pregnancy Outcomes

Sidney Kimmel Medical College students Sam Iovine and Eva Varotsis shared their research at the “Community Roots of Recovery” conference presented by the Jefferson Center for Maternal Addiction Treatment, Education and Research.

Jefferson students and faculty presented their research on issues related to maternal and family-child health, substance use disorders and poverty and inequity at the inaugural “Community Roots of Recovery” conference presented by the Jefferson Center for Maternal Addiction Treatment, Education, and Research (MATER).

For 50 years, the Jefferson Center for MATER has helped define opioid use disorder treatment for pregnant and parenting women.

Third-year Sidney Kimmel Medical College students Eva Varotsis and Sam Iovine researched low-income/low-access food areas, also known as “food deserts.” They sought ways for pregnant women to eat more nutritious meals when they didn’t have easy access to produce. A healthier diet can lower poor pregnancy outcomes, including preeclampsia, preterm labor and general morbidity.

Varotsis and Iovine visited local stores to assess the availability of ingredients. The pair found packaged and canned goods with high sodium filled the shelves.

They worked with two Jefferson nutrition and dietetic practice students, Gabrielle Zimmerman and Jessica Bixha, to list micro- and macronutrients needed for a pregnancy-healthy diet. This collaboration allowed the medical students to create recipes using some of the more widely available canned goods in the area corner stores.

Varotsis and Iovine calculated the micro- and macronutrients in pregnant patients’ existing diets and made recommendations on what to add or subtract. Their professors will review their research, and the suggestions will be sent to patients through Jefferson’s MyChart.

“We love that our research for projects like this might be able to make the difference in a real patient’s pregnancy,” Varotsis says.

In 2022, the Jefferson Center for MATER moved under the purview of the College of Nursing to give students the opportunity for real-world, hands-on training. The April 25 event, attended by over 130 people, marked the first conference of its kind for Jefferson students and MATER. 

“Jefferson’s nursing, medical, public health and other students amaze us with their compassion and awareness,” says Dr. Dennis Hand, executive director of the Jefferson Center for MATER. “Connecting students to people actively experiencing what they’re learning about is destined to help everyone involved.”

The Jefferson College of Nursing Dean Dr. Marie Ann Marino shared this excitement. “Our Jefferson Center for MATER continues to afford new opportunities for students to make real-life connections to their studies,” she says.