By Dr. Gary Hankins

The blow dealt to UTMB by Hurricane Ike seemed nothing less than devastating in the first few weeks of recovery. As unlikely as it seemed at the time, that devastation became the catalyst for shaping our growth and redevelopment.
The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s clinical personnel showed incredible resourcefulness and resilience through the disaster. In fact, we never stopped seeing patients through the storm and recovery. We delivered babies and performed surgery at two mainland hospitals, and our outlying clinics opened within days of the storm’s landfall. One clinic that opened three days after the storm saw more than 100 patients and fielded more than 500 phone calls on that first day, before most of the area had electricity or running water. We are tremendously appreciative of those families who trusted us to provide top-quality health care.
Because of infrastructure damage from the hurricane, our labor and delivery service was forced to relocate to the area in the hospital that had previously housed the surgical intensive care units. While we are grateful for the loaning of makeshift space to us these past three years, it will be simply luxurious to return to our updated and much improved unit — now renamed the UTMB Comprehensive Maternity Center.
We would like to invite everyone in our community to come visit the new facility, located on the third floor of John Sealy Hospital, Eighth and Market streets in Galveston. We are hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, and public tours will be available the first Monday of each month at 9 a.m.
The new center has 16 private, spacious labor-delivery and recovery suites, five triage rooms, four prolonged observation rooms, a maternal intensive monitoring bay and an obstetric post-surgical recovery area. These facilities are supported by five operating rooms and one fetal surgery room. The center is on the same floor as UTMB’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, making this unit ideally suited to care for our high-risk population as well as women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
I am convinced that I work with the best cadre of labor and delivery and neonatal nurses within our specialty. Our service is always covered by a host of physicians who are in-house, including obstetrician gynecologists, neonatologists and obstetric anesthesiology specialists.
Additionally, we have physicians who are trained in maternal-fetal medicine, which is specific training for high-risk pregnancies. Our team includes individuals who are board certified in both critical care as well as maternal-fetal medicine — an absolutely unique capability equaled by virtually no other facility in Texas.
Simply stated, we are prepared to deal with any emergency situation with an immediate response time, providing an incredible safety net for the woman and her soon-to-be-born child.
Mothers at lower risk for complications have access to our group of certified nurse-midwives, who are available 24 hours a day to attend births and provide woman-centered care in our clinics. The midwives and physicians work closely together to provide the individualized birth experiences many of our families request.
We are very proud of our tri-fold mission of patient care, education and research. Through our membership in several prestigious national collaborations, we are continually analyzing, evaluating and improving our patient care, which, in many areas of obstetric practice, will set national standards for care in the future. Very often, the medicine that others will be practicing in the future is already being practiced at UTMB today.
Dr. Gary Hankins is chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.