Dr. William Sappenfield receives March of Dimes service award

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USF College of Public Health’s Dr. William M. Sappenfield, director of the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative (FPQC) and Chiles Center, has been named the recipient of the March of Dimes Florida Chapter’s 2019 Lawton Chiles Service Award.

Lori Reeves, March of Dimes former regional director of Maternal and Child Health; Dr. William Sappenfield, director of the FPQC and Chiles Center; Dr. Linda Detman, associate director of the FPQC. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Linda Detman)

The award recognizes an individual whose work has positively influenced the advancement of maternal and child health in the state of Florida in the areas of leadership, advocacy, evidence informed interventions, collaboration, and reducing health disparities. 

Nominees must have achievements and career contributions that have made a significant difference in the health of mothers, infants and children in Florida and demonstrated a significant long-term commitment to maternal and child health.

Sappenfield was nominated by the FPQC staff for his leadership in developing the FPQC and providing oversight, guidance and direction over its 10-year existence, according to Dr. Linda Detman USF COPH research associate and assistant director of the FPQC.

After a 22-year career as a CDC epidemiologist, Sappenfield came to Florida in 2005 to serve as the Florida Department of Health’s state MCH epidemiologist and unit director for the MCH Practice and Analysis Unit, leading research, epidemiology, evaluation and health data efforts to guide policies and programs for Florida mothers and children. 

At the DOH, he joined the Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review team, bringing his epidemiological expertise to the table and leading deeper analyses of the mortality data; led the development of Perinatal Periods of Risk profiles for each county and each Healthy Start coalition area in the state, giving local MCH advocates understandable data to guide policy development; and led efforts to monitor and study Florida’s high maternal and infant mortality rates.

In 2011, Sappenfield joined the USF faculty as chair of the Department of Community and Family Health and director of the Chiles Center at the USF College of Public Health. 

“Dr. Sappenfield was instrumental in developing the FPQC, serving first as a co-director with Dr. John Curran, and since 2016 as director,” Detman said. “As director of the FPQC, he champions its mission to advance health care quality and patient safety for all of Florida’s mothers and babies through collective quality improvement efforts with state and hospital partners.” 

According to Detman, Sappenfield has led the FPQC since its inception in 2011 in facilitating hospital efforts that covered over half of the state’s births to address some of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality including managing maternal hemorrhage during delivery, treating maternal hypertension in a timely fashion, and promoting safe vaginal births.

“In addition, he has championed a number of FPQC projects to improve infant health including reducing neonatal catheter associated blood stream infections, improving breastfeed rates for very low birth weight infants in the NICU, and most recently addressing neonatal abstinence syndrome,” Detman said.

Dr. William Sappenfield. (Photo by Anna Mayor)

“His achievements are many and have made a substantive, measurable difference in the health of Florida’s women and children,” Detman said. “Moreover, it is his passion and commitment that make him a visionary leader and exemplify the spirit of the Lawton Chiles Service Award.”  

Sappenfield was presented the award at the kick off meeting of the Maternal Opioid Recovery Effort initiative in Orlando by Lori Reeves, March of Dimes volunteer and former regional director of Maternal and Child Health in November.

For more information on the FPQC, visit the group’s website.

Story by Linda Detman and FPQC staff