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NICU Room Named for the Family of James Richard Awalt

March 21, 2019
When James Richard Awalt's family began constructing buildings in Howard County in the 1950s, it was a rural community with farmland in every direction. Anyone who has driven through Columbia and Ellicott City recently knows things have changed. Awalt's success transcends the area in which he grew the legacy of home building begun by his father. His bequest to GBMC will help to transform families in our community for many years to come.

J. Richard Awalt passed away on May 3, 2016, leaving a $250,000 provision in his estate plans to GBMC to support the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). His compassion for children extended beyond his own four to the community, and will live on through the care GBMC is able to give to sick and premature infants.

One of Awalt's daughters, pediatrician Dr. Kathleen Awalt, helped facilitate the designation that is allowing GBMC to treat more neonatal patients and families with the best resources. Though in private practice in Towson, Dr. Awalt has privileges at GBMC and had many patients born here. After much discussion with her father after his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, she knew a gift to directly affect patient care for the community's most vulnerable children would be something her dad would be passionate about.

"The technology and needs for the NICU are always evolving," Dr. Awalt said. "I personally felt most aligned with the NICU, and wanted a designation that would directly affect patient care. I know (my father) would have been pleased with this choice."

With patient-centered care at the heart of GBMC’s work, the renovated NICU space better meets the needs of all the new precious lives that begin here at GBMC. The new, 7,700 square foot NICU offers a more private environment, allowing clinicians to focus on each infant's individual needs while facilitating communication, bonding and integration of the family.

Through generous support from the community and people like Mr. Awalt, seven single-family rooms and one room for twins as well as 15 Kangaroo chairs have been named, which is an incredible honor and reflection of the community’s appreciation for the work the medical staff undertakes every day.

Mr. Awalt was no stranger to hard work. When he and his brother, Robert, took over their father's home building business, they continued to build in the West Baltimore neighborhood where they and the business had grown up – namely Ten Hills and Hunting Ridge.

In 1955, they moved their firm to Howard County, first custom building in Dunloggin and eventually expanding into more development, apartment buildings and shopping centers. Dr. Awalt remembers her father built every home their family ever lived in except one.

Dr. Awalt remembers in 2007 when GBMC became one of the first hospitals in the area to create a combined pediatric ER and inpatient unit. This was a vast improvement over the original 1965 construction at GBMC when pediatric care was viewed as an afterthought, tacked onto other units, making care inefficient. When GBMC became the first to streamline care, Dr. Awalt remembered it being transformative for patients and families.

GBMC is grateful to the Awalt family for having continuing faith in GBMC’s commitment to caring for the children in the Greater Baltimore community.
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