NGHS Foundation Receives $1 Million Grant to Fund Maternal Health Initiatives

Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Thousands of pregnant women experience cardiovascular-related complications each year. Physicians and researchers at Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) hope to change that after receiving a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“This grant will be life-changing for many of our patients,” said Mary Lou Wilson, MSN, RN, women’s service line administrator at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC). “This will allow us to develop a Maternal Cardiac Program that will identify women who are at higher risk – oftentimes minorities in our community – and provide them with the referrals, continuity of care and monitoring they need to avoid negative health consequences.”

The grant, which came through the Health Resources and Services Administration, will help fund maternal cardiac program initiatives at NGHS, which we hope leads to improvements in care that reduce those higher mortality rates among minorities.

As one of only nine recipients of the grant awarded to support State-led Maternal Health Innovation, this funding will be used by the health system’s Women and Children’s Services, as well as Georgia Heart Institute, to study and prevent cardiac disease among pregnant and postpartum women.

Remote patient monitoring is one of the innovative techniques the grant will help fund, allowing patients to report their blood pressure, weight and other information in a digital health app from the comfort of their home. Their physician will then be able to monitor cardiac disease indicators and prevent potential health issues before they begin.

“Between 2012 and 2017, it was reported that 31% of pregnancy-related deaths in Georgia were related to cardiovascular disease,” said Keshma Saujani, MD, chair of OB/GYN Services at Northeast Georgia Health System and an OB/GYN with Longstreet Clinic. “The collaboration between obstetrics and heart and vascular services is vital to the success of this research.”

Georgia Heart Institute will continue to do its part in adding to that success, as women’s heart care remains a focus for the team. In 2021, the Women’s Heart Center was established at Georgia Heart Institute to care for the wide range of cardiovascular conditions women experience.

“We know that women with cardiovascular conditions come to us with unique symptoms,” said Laura Divoky, MD, cardiologist at Georgia Heart Institute. “While heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, claiming the lives of one in five women each year, we hope by continuing to study and understand this issue, we can treat and prevent cardiovascular disease for this population.”

 Not only will the grant help this population in north Georgia, but trends that are discovered locally will be shared statewide to help create a more comprehensive maternal model.

“The NGHS Foundation is proud to partner with organization leaders and front-line staff to provide innovative care for our pregnant patients across the region,” said Chris Bray, president and chief development officer of the NGHS Foundation. “This grant – the largest in the Foundation’s history – will have far-reaching implications that will touch not only those in northeast Georgia, but eventually, the whole state.”

To learn more about how NGHS is caring for patients across the northeast Georgia region, visit

About Northeast Georgia Health System

Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is a non-profit on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. Our team cares for more than 1 million people across the region through four hospitals and a variety of outpatient locations. Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has campuses in Gainesville, Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega – with a total of more than 750 beds and more than 1,200 medical staff members representing more than 60 specialties. Learn more at

About Georgia Heart Institute

Georgia Heart Institute is the most forward-thinking heart and vascular program in the state and includes one of the largest cardiology practices in the region, including more than 80 practitioners seeing patients at more than a dozen locations. With a multi-disciplinary team of experts treating nearly every type of heart and vascular disease and participating in leading national research, we’re providing advanced care that ensures lasting heart health for generations. Request an appointment and learn more at

The experts of Georgia Heart Institute also form the core of the cardiac care team at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s four hospitals in Gainesville, Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega. It’s all part of Northeast Georgia Health System, a non-profit which serves more than 1 million people across the region. Learn more at