Rear Admiral Dr Wanda Barfield Provides an Overview of the Biggest Challenges Neonatologists Face

Rear Admiral Wanda Barfield, MD, MPH, director of the Division of Reproductive Health for the CDC, provides an overview of some of the biggest challenges that she faces as a neonatologist.


What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a neonatologist?

So as a neonatologist, I think that often the care I'm seeing more recently is the reflection of maternal health. Increasingly what's been concerning is the opioid epidemic and opioid use disorder in pregnant women, [and] the consequences of chronic disease and maternal morbidity that may cause an early delivery or may cause complications in the mother even around the time of delivery. Also, we're seeing that women and families are having increasing challenges with regard to social determinants of health—the factors that drive where they live, grow, are born, where they learn and play.

That's such an important factor not only to the overall development of the baby, but the strength and resilience of a family. I think as a neonatologist, it's important for me to also think about how those factors contribute to the health of the family so that that baby is able to go and live within a healthy community.