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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC Researcher Awarded for Infant Side-car Bassinet Project

Dr. Kristin Tully, research associate in maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been recognized with the “Improving Human Health Award,” presented by the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS).

[Photo: Dr. Kristin Tully (right) received an award in support of a project to design and develop infant side-car bassinets (shown at left) for use in postnatal units in U.S. hospitals. Bassinet photo by Dr. Tullly]

Dr. Tully, who works in the Gillings School’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI), is project manager of two federally funded research studies on infant sleep development and a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Engagement Award on unmet maternal health needs.

She received the award in support of a project that will design and develop infant side-car bassinets for use in United States hospital postnatal units.

In collaboration with North Carolina State University’s College of Industrial Design and the design and engineering firm Trig Innovation, UNC researchers will create medical-grade side-car bassinet prototypes for testing at UNC Hospitals and will further refine the models for widespread manufacturing.

“Side-car bassinets are three-sided and lock onto to the maternal hospital bed frame, keeping the newborn within the mother’s reach and on the same level,” Dr. Tully explained. “Side-cars in the hospital setting have been adopted overseas with success, but they are not yet available in the U.S. We aim to change this because side-cars have the potential to improve three critical components of maternity care: maternal-infant health, patient satisfaction and clinical staffing.”

A side-car bassinet locks onto the maternal hospital bed frame, making it easier for mothers to access newborns.

Dr. Tully received the Improving Human Health Award with Ms. Catherine Sullivan, clinical assistant professor of maternal and child health in the Gillings School and acting director of CGBI; Dr. Alison Stuebe, associate professor of maternal and child health in the Gillings School and of obstetrics and gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine; and Dr. Carl Seashore, associate professor of pediatrics in the UNC School of Medicine.

In 2012, Dr. Tully led a randomized controlled trial that used overnight filming in a hospital in England to examine maternal and newborn interactions following cesarean childbirth. In this study and others, she and colleagues found that side-cars improved maternal-infant bonding and health outcomes such as breastfeeding while also reducing infant handling risks and nursing staff time spent on non-medical needs.

In addition to the side-cars improving the entire postpartum experience for mothers and newborns, the alleviation of non-critical demands on nursing time means the specialized bassinets offer potential cost-savings related to hospital staffing.

“Stand-alone bassinets are not designed for mothers to use without getting out of bed,” Dr. Tully said. “This structural constraint results in a reliance on others – such as nurses – and causes a delay in access to infants that is highly frustrating for women.”

Dr. Tully’s work with side-car bassinets is featured in a new clinical report, titled “Safe Sleep and Skin-to-Skin Care in the Neonatal Period for Healthy Term Newborns,” published online August 22 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The report highlights the many benefits of side-car use in hospital settings, which make the planned results of Tully’s Improving Human Health Award especially promising. At the end of the 18-month project period, licensing and strategic partnerships should enable the side-cars to be implemented widely in clinics around the U.S.

“This work will address a critical gap in health care,” Dr. Tully said. “We are excited for this opportunity to better serve families.”

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