By Wendy Sarubbi | April 1, 2013 12:56 pm

Holding her cooing, healthy 5-month-old grandson Patrick, Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, kicked off this year’s March of Dimes fundraising event April 1.

She, the college’s partners from Nemours Children’s Hospital and the father of a baby born prematurely urged College of Medicine faculty and staff to participate in the April 27 March for Babies walk at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando. Money from the walk will help mothers have stronger, healthier babies and provide education and research to prevent premature births.

One in eight American babies – 500,000 a year – is born too soon. In terms of its premature birth rate, Florida receives a “D” grade because 13 percent of the babies born in the state are premature. Roger Oxendale, senior vice president of Nemours and CEO of Nemours Children’s Hospital, explained that participating in the March of Dimes is consistent with the hospital’s focus to not only treat the sick but to also “keep people well.”

“It is fitting that we partner and work together to help the March of Dimes,” he said, adding that “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

Dr. Victoria Niklas, the hospital’s chief of neonatology, said that while medical advances have improved some treatments for premature infants, the best approach is to prevent prematurity in the first place. She said her work with the March of Dimes is “in honor of the thousands of babies and families I have cared for.”

Josh Pelleymounter of Lake Nona knows the medical problems premature babies suffer. His daughter Kylie was born at 23 weeks, and has gone through 16 surgeries, 70 blood transfusions and 40 trips to the emergency room. Doctors gave her a survival rate of 10 percent when she was born 17 weeks prematurely.

“To see her today,” he said of his now almost 3-year-old daughter, “she smiles all the time, she crawls all over the place, she plays with her brother.”  The father said “we believe things happen for a reason,” and that it was no coincidence that they live down the road from Medical City and that Kylie’s birthday is during March of Dimes Weekend.

To sign up for the College of Medicine walking team or to donate to the March of Dimes, please go to












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