Alumnus profile - Jeffery Garland, MD ’81, GME ’84, Fel ’88
Classes represented in this story: '81, '83
Bringing a new baby into the world is a joyful time for most families. And in many cases, the participating physicians are able to share in that joy. But for neonatologist Jeffery Garland, MD ’81, GME ’84, Fel ’88, and the families of his infant patients, that joy is frequently delayed for months and sometimes years. Those months are spent in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) among other infants with low birth weights, birth defects and other life-threatening health complications.
The lives of neonatology patients are touch-and-go from the newborn’s first, often mechanically-assisted breath. For Dr. Garland and the families of his patients, it is difficult to know when it is safe to truly celebrate. Thus, it’s no wonder he got a bit emotional at a reunion this summer of neonate patients from Milwaukee’s Aurora Sinai Medical Center, one of the hospitals with which he is associated.
“You see these kids, and they were so sick when you took care of them,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, they’re 7 years old, and they’re talking to you.”
Dr. Garland estimates there were five or six of his patients at the Aurora Sinai NICU 30th anniversary party at Milwaukee County Zoo, but he saw many others whom he helped while on call for Newborn Care Physicians of Southeast Wisconsin. One of his patients at the reunion was a 3-year-old girl who weighed 11 ounces at birth – the smallest baby ever born in Wisconsin and just 2.4 ounces more than the smallest baby ever born.
“That was a real community success story because we took care of her at Sinai,” Dr. Garland said. “She got sick and had to have surgery at Children’s (Hospital of Wisconsin). Then she came back to Sinai before being able to go home. She’s still very small, but she’s really doing well.”
In a study by the Neonatal Research Network of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 29 percent of extremely low birth weight children – those weighing less than 2.2 pounds, such as those Dr. Garland cares for – experience some developmental delay, or physical or mental impairment. Add a hospital-acquired infection, quite common in premature births, and the number of extremely low birth weight children with developmental impairment rises to 47 percent.
“That’s the thing I got the biggest charge out of,” Dr. Garland said. “You hear a lot about babies not doing well if they’re born very premature. But the nice thing about seeing this [the reunion] is that the vast majority of the kids are entirely normal, are doing great in school and are well adjusted.”
Dr. Garland, who did a pediatric critical care fellowship at the Medical College, received a master’s in science from the Harvard School of Public Health while completing his neonatology fellowship at Harvard Medical School. He is using his research training to do his part to improve neonatal outcomes.
He conducts research focused on reducing infections in neonates. In addition, he is the neonatal representative for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intravascular catheter care guidelines.
“Our own kid was 12.5 weeks early and weighed 2 pounds at birth, and he’s doing
His own family’s story makes Dr. Garland’s ties to the reunion even more personal than most. In 1995, he and his wife, Cynthia, adopted a baby who was treated at the NICU at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, now Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare.
“That’s why I get emotional at these kinds of reunions, because our own kid was 12.5 weeks early and weighed 2 pounds at birth,” he said. “And he’s doing well now. He talks back to us as any teenager does, but he’s still a great kid.”
Their preemie son, Tristan, is now 13. He began eighth grade this fall. The Garland family also includes another son, Graham, 18.
Dr. Jeffery Garland is the son of Thomas Garland, Jr., MD, former Chairman of Family Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He is also the brother of Thomas Garland III, MD, GME ’83, a family practitioner in North Carolina.