When I first made contact with the March of Dimes, applying for this internship position, I wrote that I was excited about the possibility of getting involved with such a dynamic organization. I may have been sucking up a bit, but I wasn’t lying: I had done some research on the company and discovered that its focus had changed quite a bit since its inception.
The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fight polio. At that time it was called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the early-twentieth-century name for the disease poliomyelitis, which mostly attacked children under five year of age. You can read more about its history here, but you’ve already experienced the outcome in your doctor’s office. After nearly twenty years of research, one of the scientists funded by the organization developed an effective vaccine for the disease.
Driven by a likely combination of goodwill, financial necessity, and scientific curiosity, the March of Dimes reinvented itself instead of simply dissolving after its success. Continuing in the field of infant health, it began to fund research on the causes of birth defects and, later, to sponsor education and prevention techniques. In 2003, the focus broadened to include premature birth.
I wasn’t expecting another shift to take place while I was working at the March of Dimes, but a dynamic organization must keep up with the issues of the times, and its newest campaign was just released to the public on June 7th, 2011. Called Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait, it targets a trend that would have been unfathomable to its founders: elective premature birth. Just as Roosevelt created a foundation to defeat a disease that plagued his generation, the twenty-first century March of Dimes spotted an emerging problem and resolved to tackle it with research and education.