By Melissa Gonzales, president of Women’s Health

According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. is one of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman to give birth. We are also one of the wealthiest and most advanced countries in the world. That jarring contradiction has spurred my long career focus on improving healthcare for mothers and babies. 

I started out my career in nursing but have spent the past two and a half decades working in the healthcare industry — primarily at companies providing medical equipment. Today, I lead the Women’s Health business at Myriad Genetics, where we develop many genetic tests designed to help women throughout their healthcare journeys. 

The opportunity to join Myriad Genetics last year really spoke to me. I had spent the previous 13 years at a medical equipment company focused on improving health outcomes for mothers and babies, and for nearly a decade I have been actively involved with March of Dimes, where I currently serve as board chair. I truly believe we can keep new mothers safer when they give birth and reduce preterm births by increasing access to healthcare and information for all women. 

So far, though, our country has not moved the needle on maternal mortality or preterm birth —areas where other countries have made significant strides. For decades our rates have plateaued or even gotten worse. This has extremely long-term consequences: premature births lead to enormous and life-long challenges for the baby, the family, and the healthcare system. But we know that if we do a better job on the maternal side, creating healthier conditions for our expecting moms, it translates into much better outcomes for babies as well. 

While Myriad Genetics is best known for its hereditary cancer risk testing, the company also offers several genetic tests under the umbrella of women’s health. Our prenatal screening test gives pregnant women a non-invasive option to check on their baby’s health — without the potential risk for miscarriage associated with traditional tests such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. We also provide a carrier screening test that helps prospective moms understand their risk of passing certain diseases on to their future children. 

Because these tests are relevant for all women who are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, regardless of ancestry, I believe they offer a foundation of information that will finally make it possible to address some of the healthcare disparities that have kept our rates of maternal mortality and preterm birth so stubbornly high. I came to this company because I believe Myriad Genetics can be a partner for women ahead of and throughout their pregnancies. That slice of time is so critical, and an area where there is so much opportunity to make healthcare better in this country. Any improvement confers benefit to two generations: giving moms the chance to watch their children grow up healthy and strong. 

If you share my passion for delivering better healthcare for moms and babies, I’d love to hear from you. 

Myriad Genetics at J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

Paul J. Diaz, president and chief executive officer, Bryan Riggsbee, chief financial officer, and Dale Muzzey, chief scientific officer, presented at the 41st annual J.P. Morgan (JPM) Healthcare Conference.