Retiring in 2020, Nancy Cook, M.D. worked as an OBGYN for thirty-two years in Atlanta, GA, where she delivered thousands of babies. During her time at her private practice, she became Chief of OB at Piedmont Hospital and President of the Atlanta and Georgia OBGYN Societies.
Nearly fifteen years ago, she began to encounter a new part of the birthing process that was becoming increasingly common around the country: newborn stem cell preservation. “But back then,” Dr. Cook says, “it was a completely new thing, so only people in the bigger cities had heard of it.”
In time, continuing to educate herself about newborn stem cells would become a passion for Dr. Cook.
Why Newborn Stem Cells?
Having graduated from medical school with an interest in oncology, Dr. Cook had done quite a bit of work studying leukemia, which can be treated in part by a hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplant.
However, before cord blood, HSCs were obtained exclusively through bone marrow and peripheral blood. Unfortunately, bone marrow HSC extraction is often a painful process, and sometimes donors are not eligible because their cells have been damaged by age or environmental factors.
But obtaining HSCs through cord blood is much easier. Because the cells are obtained at birth from the blood left in the umbilical cord, the process is 100% painless for the child and mother. Plus, unlike HSCs from bone marrow, they are in pristine condition.
Fascination Takes Hold
Dr. Cook immediately found the cord blood stem cell infusions intriguing. “At one meeting, a scientist showed us how simple the process really was. It’s like any other infusion and takes very little time. Of course, the prep work is much different. It’s a more time-consuming process.”
After learning about the basics of cord blood collection, she began to incorporate it into her practice. She’d already been collecting samples from patients for donation to the Cleveland Cord Blood Center when she met Heather Brown, VP of Clinical Innovation at CBR. Now she would be able to collect samples for both public and family use.
What drew her to CBR? “I was very fond of the research that CBR participated in. So much so, that I even contemplated going into that sector of medicine in the past, and might consider it now that I’m retired.”
From there, she began collecting privately for families, joining CBR’s Newborn Possibilities Program, in which CBR trains physicians around the country to help identify babies and family members who might benefit from newborn stem cell preservation. It also provides free processing and five years of storage.
She flew to CBR’s laboratory and processing facility in Tucson, AZ, to tour the state-of-the-art lab and learn from stem cell experts. She was impressed by the sophistication of the facility and the level of attention the team gave to every stem cell unit they stored.
It’s All About the Future
As time went on, Dr. Cook became more and more enthusiastic about the possibilities of newborn stem cells. “In the past, it was all about blood-borne diseases like sickle cell anemia. But now the space is moving more into regenerative medicine, trying to find treatments for hearing loss and cerebral palsy.”
In April 2021, Dr. Cook had her third grandchild. She has insisted on helping her children preserve all of her grandchildren’s newborn stem cells with CBR.
“We don’t know what the future will hold,” she says, “but the science is changing so much. I hope that one day it gets to the point where preparing a stem cell infusion is as easy as a blood transfusion.”
Although Dr. Cook is currently relocating to Virginia, she still plans to continue educating others about newborn stem cell preservation. She hopes to teach other doctors and hospitals about the process and the science, and maybe even help in efforts to standardize information for the medical community.
At CBR, we’re honored to have an amazing, inspirational advocate like Nancy Cook, M.D. in our corner.
Expecting a child? Have friends or family who are expecting a child or grandchild? Enroll with us today or log into your account for your unique referral code. When someone you refer preserves with CBR, you’ll get one year of free cord blood storage—and they’ll receive special pricing on our newborn stem cell bundle!