Dr. Thomas Chiu, a neonatologist and recently retired Healthy Start Coalition board member, has witnessed many changes in the area over the 35 years he has been part of the Jacksonville community — including the push for positive growth and awareness of women and children’s health.
“Women and children’s health in my opinion are very important,” said Dr. Chiu. “But I don’t think it has been ranked that high on the national priority list.”
The University of Florida graduate began practicing neonatology in 1976 when newborn health was considered a new field of specialty. Witnessing the lack of attention to women and children’s health throughout the years, Dr. Chiu realized it was important to voice his concerns. He was a pioneer in establishing a collaborative, citywide Neonatology program and several public health/academic partnership efforts.
His passion for the community’s future led to his participation as a founding member on the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition board, where he served for more than a decade. He also served as chair of the board for two years, in 2001 and 2005.
The Healthy Start board is comprised of members with diverse backgrounds and different specialized areas to encompass all of the possible needs for women and children. Board members are responsible for voting on the budget and deciding what services to provide with the money allotted. They also deliberate on what opportunities the Coalition has available to serve the public.
As a board member, Dr. Chiu helped the Coalition improve their programs by providing his expertise on newborn’s health and medicine. As Coalition chair, Dr. Chiu was actively involved in the implementation of The Magnolia Project, a special initiative to address the high rates of infant mortality in northwest Jacksonville. His wisdom and leadership enabled the project to meet several operational challenges. It is now nationally recognized as an innovative approach to addressing racial disparities in birth outcomes.
Dr. Chiu supported and actively participated in a special study of black infant mortality in Duval County that lead to the development of Hold-Out the Lifeline, a faith-based community awareness and education initiative. And, through the UF Department of Pediatrics, he has provided medical expertise and staff support for the regional Fetal & Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Project.
In 2012, Dr. Chiu was honored with the Coalition’s Philip H. Gilbert Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. The award, given each January, is reserved for a dedicated and passionate volunteer who shares Healthy Start’s vision and actively contributes to the realization of Coalition goals.
“Healthy Start is a big part of speaking up for women and children,” Dr. Chiu said.