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Dominick and Dr. Barbara Sasser

The Sasser Family Foundation Contributes $125,000 to UTMB to Launch its Breastfeeding initiative

Dominick and Dr. Barbara Sasser of Galveston, through their foundation, have contributed $125,000 to support UTMB’s Baby-Friendly Hospital initiative, a global program launched by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund. Baby-Friendly Hospitals are considered the ideal standard in the care of infants and mothers.

To receive the designation, hospitals must practice care that includes: keeping infants with their mothers, placing them in skin-to-skin contact following birth, training staff and educating families about the benefits of breastfeeding. The Sasser’s contribution will provide staff training, new equipment and supplies. Dr. Barbara Sasser, who earned her doctoral degree in biochemistry at UTMB, and her husband recently spoke about their gift.      

Q: There are now only seven hospitals in Texas that hold the Baby-Friendly designation. What will it mean to you both to help UTMB earn this important designation?  

A: (Barbara) Well, the Baby-Friendly designation to me means every baby and mother gets all the advantages from their hospital stay, and probably prior to that, which will help them have successful breastfeeding relationships. And that benefits the mother and baby.

As far as hospitals are concerned, we would want them to do everything in the best interest of their patients, and a Baby Friendly Hospital does just that.

(Dominick) The designation will also help educate fathers that breastfeeding is the best way to go.

Q: But what will this designation mean to you?

A: (Barbara) I’m ecstatic. There are very few Baby-Friendly Hospitals in the state of Texas, and being able to be the catalyst that would help UTMB acquire that is extremely important to me. I’m very pleased that we have the resources to do this. We both believe strongly in this; Dominick has supported me all along the way. We’re a team.

(Dominick) Breastfeeding is a family affair, but unfortunately many people don’t look at it that way. For both parents to receive support for this is also extremely important…Fathers are often left out of the equation.

Q: Talk about how you became interested in promoting improved breastfeeding practices. Where did that interest originate?

A: (Barbara) My interest in breastfeeding goes back even before we had any children. My mother breastfed all of us, and we heard stories about how unusual that was for her day. She had a drug-free childbirth or natural child birth, and she nursed us. That was part of the family lore…I knew I wanted to breastfeed my own children and Dominick was very supportive. I nursed them exclusively for six months as recommended.  Then I became a La Leche League leader and was active in that organization for about 15 years in Galveston.

Q: I understand you both recently toured the hospital. Can you share some of that experience?

A: (Barbara) The first part of the tour was the Mother-Friendly work space which is a room set aside for pumping. The designation as a Mother-Friendly Worksite for UTMB is obviously the first step.

UTMB should be an advocate for and be supportive of their nursing, working mothers. So, that’s a wonderful first step. Then we toured the NICU and they showed us their freezers they have for storage of breast milk. They intend to buy another freezer because they expect to have significantly more breast milk there. Breast milk is important for full-term babies and even more important for pre-term babies.   

Q: What are your thoughts about the plan UTMB has in place to achieve this designation?

A: (Barbara) I was just very impressed with how the staff was so much in favor of what we wanted to accomplish. They are very positive and believe in this. Dr. (Joan) Richardson said UTMB would probably get around to this in a longer period of time, but our gift will allow them to do that in a much accelerated way. So, it’s something they want to do. It’s clear that everyone is involved and working toward the same goal.     

Q: Tell me why you decided to give to UTMB .

A: (Barbara) This is a gift from the Sasser Family Foundation, which we started a number of years ago. The reason we want to give to UTMB is we live in Galveston and we believe in UTMB. This is an area of medicine that affects everybody, has long-term health benefits and will have a significant impact on a large number of people.  We can’t think of better way to support UTMB.

(Dominick) We like to support groups or organizations that work to solve problems and not just put Band-Aids on them.

Q: Now, what would you tell others who might be interested in giving to this initiative?

A: (Dominick) I would say that this is one piece in the puzzle of offering the best health care possible. What better time to start then when we are born.

(Barbara) Although our gift covers the bulk of this initiative, anyone else interested in supporting this type of designation is welcome to join us.

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