Gravens Conference seeks to move the needle in neonatal care worldwide

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The 28th annual Gravens Conference will be held March 4-7 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach. Named for COPH Professor Emeritus Dr. Stan Graven and his wife, Mavis (thus the name “Gravens,” with an “s”), the conference is a yearly effort to improve neonatal care around the world.

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Bobbi Rose makes no attempt to conceal her excitement about the event. Hired in 2002 as a meeting planner elsewhere at USF, Rose impressed Dr. Graven with her handling of medical meetings enough that he hired her to concentrate on planning for College of Public Health events.

“Had no experience, got lucky, took it,” Rose said matter-of-factly. “It’s actually a perfect fit for me, because I’m neurotically organized – not that you would know it by looking at my office.”

Her organizational skills – office notwithstanding – led to her full-time position as conference coordinator for COPH’s Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center, a job she relishes down to the last detail.

“I basically do everything except pick the speakers and the content and do the actual speaking,” she said. “I’m responsible for handling all the accreditation needs. That’s usually the most challenging. I’m responsible for the budget. I’m responsible for managing the speakers. I’m responsible for overseeing the food.”

The reason she loves tackling such mundane conference chores, she said, is the excitement of playing a role in improvements in clinical settings that result in improvements in health outcomes, as well as her recognition of Graven as a pioneer.

“Dr. Graven was a neonatologist who realized that there was a lack of standardization,” she said. “So, he started to standardize NICUs, even measure what was going on in NICUs.”

Rose explained that NICUs (NICK-yooz) is the field’s acronym for “neonatal intensive care units.”

“It started with Dr. Graven trying to get people together, come to the table and talk about their practice. ‘What are we doing that works, what are we doing that doesn’t work, how do we know, how do we even compare besides just anecdotes?’ And it’s grown from there.”

Graven, also a former COPH dean and former Chiles Center director, still comes to the meeting every year, she said. Together, they have watched the conference become a global force in neonatal health care.

Gravens Conference

“It’s very international now, and that just thrills me,” Rose said. “It’s not uncommon that we have eight or 10 countries represented. To me, the more global we get, the better, because we really all have the same challenges. We don’t all have the same education resources, but a baby is a baby.”

Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, China and “countries all over Europe” will be represented at this year’s meeting, Rose said, as well as a large contingent from Canada.

“Canada is very progressive with NICU care,” she said. “They come every year. The international people, in general, are often submitting posters or abstracts for posters, and that’s really nice, too. They’re more than just attendees. They’re participating at a little bit higher level.”

The conference typically draws about 500 people including faculty, speakers, planning committee members and booth exhibitors, Rose said.

On the third day of the four-day conference, Rose said, the Gravens Award will be presented to “an individual or a team that has excelled in moving the needle in NICU care, and we’re kind of broad with that, because there are a lot of ways to move the needle.”

Story by David Brothers, College of Public Health.

Related media:
Click here to register for the 2015 Gravens Conference
Gravens Conference brochure