A Gift to UC Berkeley Focuses on the Ripple Effects of Maternal and Child Health

Moms are important. In so many ways, they set the bar for the level of health and self-care we practice (or don’t practice) throughout our lives. They’re our first teachers, and many of those early lessons are about well-being: nutrition, sleep schedules, emotional balance. With public health efforts increasingly looking “upstream” to better the roots of health, it’s not really any surprise that the School of Public Health at University of California Berkeley just received more than $13 million… to establish a center for maternal and child health.

The gift comes from Dr. Helen Wallace, who was known as an advocate with a passion for improving the lives of women and children. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 99, after a long career mentoring generations of students as a professor and chair of UC Berkeley’s Maternal and Child Health program. She earned her bachelor's degree from Wellesley College in 1933, followed by a master's degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1943, and a medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1937. She authored hundreds of journal articles and sixteen textbooks—most recently, Health and Welfare for Families in the 21st Century, the second edition of which was published in 2003.

Fittingly, this new Wallace Maternal and Child Health Center will focus on “innovative, evidence-based” research with a central goal of making women in all walks of life healthier. A key premise here is that advancing knowledge and best practices about how to best make investments in mothers and their babies can create ripple effects that improve the health of families across the country. The center is planning to start with an ambitious spate of scholarships and fellowships, and from there, move to educating and training new public health leaders from western states. Additionally, an endowed chair will be established.

"We are extremely excited and gratified to move our work forward with greater focus and commitment in the arena of maternal and child health, which was the vision of Dr. Helen Wallace," said Dr. Stefano Bertozzi, dean of the School of Public Health. "The School of Public Health has been taking a leadership role on these issues at the global level for some time now through the Bixby Center for Population, Health, and Sustainability. The new Wallace Maternal and Child Health Center will deepen our work and allow us to focus on attracting and supporting students from the western United States."