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Video Text Alternative: Meet Our Researchers: Dr. James Mills on Studying Alcohol Exposure

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Meet Our Researchers
Dr. Mills describes how the idea for the alcohol study took hold


NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development logo
GRAPHIC SLIDE: James Mills, M.D., M.S.

Dr. Mills on camera.
Dr. James Mills: When I was doing my fellowship in pediatric endocrinology, I worked with a very good physician named Fernando Cassorla from Chile. At the end of our fellowship, I said, "Fernando, where are you going?" He said, "I'm going to NIH." And I said, "That's funny, so am I." And we ended up both working at NICHD for many years. He became the Clinical Director here.

When he went back to Chile, I said, "You know, we've never worked together. It would be fun, someday, to do a research study." And he said, "I'll tell you one we might do in Chile." In the area in Chile where they grow grapes and make wine, wine is incredibly cheap. You can get a liter box of wine for $1. And so, women drink a lot in that area.

And suddenly, the light came on over both of our heads and we said, "Let's do an alcohol study." And what we wanted to do was not your standard fetal alcohol study where you find a child of fetal alcohol syndrome and see what's wrong. We wanted to see what the risk was for alcohol-related problems.

So, he set up an amazing study with input and financial support from us where his team interviewed 9,600 women coming in for their first prenatal care and they used a young social worker to talk with the women so that they'd be relaxed about talking about their drinking and all.

Out of that group, we identified 100 women who were very heavy drinkers, meaning at least four drinks of alcohol a day on the average. We also identified a group of non-drinkers that we could use as a comparison group. Then, we followed those women, not only through their pregnancies, but for years afterwards. Some of them we followed for up to seven or eight years to see how their children were doing.

So, we followed these children and we found out some very interesting things. One was that about 80 percent of the children whose mothers were drinking at these very high levels had some alcohol related damage.
Last Updated Date: 09/03/2013
Last Reviewed Date: 09/03/2013
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