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A Room of One’s Own: Schillers Support New NICU

Ernie and Betsy SchillerFour decades ago, when Ernie Schiller, MD, a retired pediatrician who served as chief of Cone Health’s pediatric service, and his wife Betsy Schiller, PhD, a retired nutritionist and dietitian, welcomed their newborn son, a jaundice diagnosis landed him in a busy, noisy and crowded neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). While their son’s NICU stay was short, this galvanizing experience and careers dedicated to the health of women and children inspired them to make a donation in support of a NICU room in the new Cone Health Women’s & Children’s Center.

“After the birth of a tiny, fragile or sick baby, it can be so frightening and hard for parents who want to be with their baby,” shares Dr. Betsy Schiller, who vividly recalls visiting the NICU every couple of hours to breastfeed her son.

Ernie and Betsy Schiller

“In those days, moms and babies were treated like sick people who needed to recover from each other…in a sterile, institutional environment,” adds Dr. Ernie Schiller. “In the new building, families benefit from warmth and kindness…from caring staff in state-of-the-art private rooms that go a long way toward healing.”

“Having time for parents and babies to be together in rooms of their own gets them off to a good start and impacts a whole lifetime,” observes Dr. Betsy Schiller, who spent much of her career working with Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). “You can’t make up for that later on.”

Schiller room signAfter the Schillers “toured” the cardboard building design and donned hardhats to visit the center while it was under construction, they were immediately struck by how cheery, welcoming and thoughtfully-designed the new space is. They value how even the smallest design details – from the location of outlets to doors – are based on staff feedback. They appreciate the use of environmentally sound construction practices and materials. And, they recognize the advantages of having mothers and babies close to specialized care for when the need arises.

“While there’s a great deal of emphasis these days on curing disease, one of the biggest impacts we can have is to focus on prevention with screenings, vaccines, education and early interventions,” adds Dr. Ernie Schiller. “Cone Health has done this well.”

“Though there are many good causes, we prefer to give to those that have staying power and longevity,” affirms Dr. Betsy Schiller. “Having served the community well for many decades, Cone Health makes us feel confident that our donation is part of a long-term solution that benefits our community and society.”