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Meet Dr. Maria Pane, Neonatologist at GBMC

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Laura Tenbus

June 3, 2020
Having to find a new doctor can be a daunting task. It’s difficult to know whether they’ll be a good fit for you from just a biography and a photo online. In the series, “What’s Up, Dr. Dovec?” GBMC bariatric surgeon, Elizabeth Dovec, MD, FACS, FASMB, interviews providers across the GBMC HealthCare System so you can get to know them on a personal level and learn more about their specialties. In this episode, Dr. Dovec interviews Maria Pane, MD, neonatologist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Newborn Nursery at GBMC. The conversation focuses on the incredible work being done in the NICU, Dr. Pane’s personal story of giving birth to a preemie baby, and the upcoming virtual 32nd Annual GBMC Father’s Day 5K and 1-Mile Fun Walk.

Most families experience normal, healthy births, but for the 10% of babies who require intensive care, it can be incredibly scary. There are many reasons a baby could need to go to the NICU, from respiratory distress and congenital disorders to simply being born too early. Depending on their condition, babies can stay in the NICU for a couple of days or even as long as four to six months. During this time, strong bonds are formed between the nurses and families that often last beyond the baby’s stay. “The nurses love these babies like they’re their own,” explained Dr. Pane, “the team becomes family with a lot of the parents and it’s incredibly rewarding to see these babies thriving after they’ve graduated from our unit.”

The NICU is a 24-hour unit and families are encouraged to accompany the care team on their daily rounds. This allows parents to learn the ins and outs of the unit and get to know the team taking care of their baby more intimately. “Nurses and the team really do a lot of education with families to try to help answer their questions and make them feel comfortable,” said Dr. Pane, “we have all individual rooms with three rooms for twins and, under normal circumstances, grandparents and other visitors are allowed to visit the family.” Unfortunately, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced the NICU to take extreme caution and care and only allow one parent to visit the baby at a time. GBMC is taking many other precautions to keep patients and employees safe. Click here to learn more.

When describing her personal experience with the NICU, Dr. Pane said, “no one expects to have to go to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. When I, myself, ruptured my membranes early, the first thought I had was that I have to get to the hospital because my baby is probably going to need the NICU. Even as a physician, it was very overwhelming. The most common question I hear from families, and the question I had myself, was ‘Is my baby going to make it?’”

After a baby in need of extra medical care is born, there is often a period of separation because they need to be transferred immediately to the NICU. This time can be incredibly stressful for parents and the father or partner may be torn between following the baby and staying with the mother as she recovers. Whatever he or she decides, the NICU team works very hard to communicate the baby’s condition to the family as soon as possible.

GBMC’s NICU, which was renovated in 2019, is built specifically to allow parents to participate in their baby’s care. The renovation was funded entirely by GBMC’s annual Father’s Day 5K and 1-Mile Fun Walk. This year, to follow physical distancing guidelines, the event is going virtual! Dr. Pane encouraged people to register for the race, run the 5K or walk one mile, and share your pictures with us. Pictures can be posted on social media with the hashtag #GBMC5K and remember to tag GBMC HealthCare on Facebook and Instagram (@gbmchealthcare)! All of the money raised from this event goes to the NICU to buy specialized equipment and provide the best possible care for our tiniest patients.

This event is near and dear to Dr. Pane’s heart who, when asked why she chose GBMC, replied: “I’ve been at GBMC for 18 years now. I did my fellowship in neonatology over at Johns Hopkins, which is a world-class institution, but I had always looked at GBMC as my hospital. It’s a community hospital that has just about everything the larger institutions have. There is something incredibly special here and, as a fellow years ago, I looked at the doctors and the nurses that were here and I saw that they were family and they cared about their patients. I always wanted to work in that environment. My first job was not at GBMC because there were no openings, but when a job became available, I jumped on it and I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to come here. I’ve never looked back.”
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