Moms Helping Moms: The Shelly Bridgewater Dreams Foundation

I have 3 main roles in my life: mother, wife, and scientist.  Believe it or not, my career as a researcher in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UIHC is actually a good blend of all 3 roles.

I share an office and lab space with my husband, Mark, who is a High Risk Obstetrician and also a researcher.  We both study diseases that affect women in pregnancy, so Mark and I often work together on projects. As a result of those projects following us home, our daughters pretend to write grants and give research presentations and prefer the scientist Lego set to Mermaid Barbie. (We embrace our nerdiness!)

Most of the time, it is very fulfilling to know that I’ve made it my life’s mission to ensure moms stay healthy in pregnancy. I constantly remind myself that each year over 290,000 women die of pregnancy-related causes worldwide.  As a mother and a wife, I couldn’t imagine leaving behind my family at a time that was supposed to be one of the most joyous in our lives. That thought alone drives me each day to work to find ways to make pregnancy safer, for the sake of both the mother and her family.

However, there are times when my job can be incredibly frustrating.

As with most things in life, money is the usual cause of frustration. Research is expensive. The Holy Grail for most researchers is to get and stay funded by the National Institutes of Health from the government.  However, the money doesn’t get spread out evenly… and women’s health research typically gets the short end of the stick.

Last year, I was applying for a pregnancy-related grant project and was told by an official that I shouldn’t bother because my research didn’t apply to all people. How does pregnancy not affect all of society?! We are all born to moms and our mother’s health has very real long and short-term effects on us.  It was very difficult to realize that not everyone, including government scientists, grasp that idea. That phone call remains one of the most eye-opening and irritating moments of my life. It makes me feel better to work with organizations that recognize the importance of supporting research related to women’s health.

There is one group that is particularly that is very close to my heart – the Shelly Bridgewater Dreams Foundation. A group that formed as a result of tragedy. As you learned in this blog post from her best friend Bree, Shelly died due to complications related to preeclampsia in 2005 at the age of 25, one week after giving birth to her first child, Hailey. The volunteers with the Shelly Bridgewater Dreams Foundation are an amazing group of people who are passionate about reminding everyone that maternal health is important to ALL of society. Their mission is to improve advocacy, education and research related to maternal health.

qc dreams walk
Quad City Dreams Walk, 2013

I was pregnant at the same time as Shelly Bridgewater. Although I never met her, I am inspired by Shelly. When I saw my daughter and her daughter working together to set up for the Quad Cities Dream Walk, I was struck by just how lucky I am to have a healthy family and to be here to watch my children grow. I had a pretty easy delivery for my oldest daughter.  While my delivery was not quite as easy for my youngest daughter, I had an amazing group of providers at UIHC who were able to take care of us and make sure that we were both safe and healthy.

Bree wrote a book about her friendship with Shelly, We Hope You Like this Song. (Read more about Bree and Shelly’s friendship in her post for Iowa City Moms Blog.)  In it, Bree says, “There’s no better feeling than honoring your BFF by raising money to help save other people’s BFFs, mothers, daughter’s granddaughters, and babies.” So as a mom, wife, and scientist I invite you to please join us on October 24th at Dreams Night at the Coralville Marriott Convention Center.  The funds that you help raise will help save someone’s mother, wife, sister, cousin, neighbor….  And you will feel good about it! It will be a fun night with tastings of food, drinks, and desserts! Ashley Hinson from KCRG will be hosting the evening which will include a silent and live auction and entertainment from Intersection, the a Capella group from UI!  Please come be inspired by these amazing volunteers and support the health of moms! For more details and to register to attend, please visit


A very special thanks to our guest blogger, Donna Santillan,  Research Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology  (Reproductive Science Research) at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.


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