Dr. Kecia Gaither uses her position as an obstetrician to help those living in at-risk community in Brooklyn. Gaither serves as vice chairman and director of maternal fetal medicine in the department of OB/GYM at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn. She’s held the position for three years. At the hospital, she oversees what she calls a high-risk area of pregnant women living in the Brownsville neighborhood who are dealing with health issues such as diabetes, obesity, HIV, brain tumors and sickle cell.
A native of Harlem, Gaither said she always had aspirations to go into the field of medicine. “I just wanted to fix things,” she said. “My mother said I was going to running around saying I was being a surgeon since that age of four had stuffed animal that had multiple surgeries.”
Gaither graduated from Barnard College before going to SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. She also has a master’s degree from Columbia University in health policy and management. Originally going to school to become a pediatrician, during her rotation of various medical fields, obstetrics caught her attention. She worked with a doctor, she said, who got her interested in the field. Prior to coming back to her hometown, she worked in North Carolina and Florida.
“It took a lot of hard work and good mentors and just being in the right place at the right time,” she said. “I did my first year of OBG residency in Brooklyn. It’s very comfortable here. There’s nothing like the Apple and my folks are here. This is where I’m needed the most.”
One area that Gaither specifically concentrates on is obesity among pregnant women, which is plaguing the Black community. The pandemic can lead to many maternal health issues, including cardiovascular problems, diabetes, arthritis and uterine cancer. Gaither reports that 70 percent of the women who come to Brookdale to deliver their babies are obese, with 35 to 40 percent of those who are morbidly obese weighing 300 to 400 pounds.
“When you have a pregnant mom who is obese, things can happen to the baby. Babies can be heavier, they can have congenital problems, including brain and spinal problems,” Gaither said. There is also an increased risk of needing a C-section because of the baby’s size. Babies who turn into obese adults have the same risk of heart disease and the problems that go along with obesity. It’s like a vicious pattern.”
Her advice for pregnant women in order to reduce their risk of complications is to get early prenatal care; take vitamins, especially folic acid; get sonograms and ultrasounds; and receive early screenings for gestational diabetes.
For now, Gaither said that she wants to stay at Brookdale and continue her work in an at-risk community. She also wants to get into book writing, with aspirations to author a book on obesity in pregnancy and an autobiography.
Said Gaither, “I like working in my community. I did my training here. There is a need in the Brownsville community and I enjoy fulfilling that need.”