Maternal 911 recognized as 2021 CMURC Mount Pleasant SmartZone Small Business of the Year

Shelly Betancourt and Michelle Becher sit and listen during a recertification course they take once every two years. The program is meant to increase and keep them up-to-date on how to handle emergency situations following childbirth. 

While the course continues, they start to think about how this information could really benefit moms as well.

“It just wasn't there for the mom,” Becher says. “Shelly and I looked at each other one day and thought, ‘Why not? Why not make it happen?’ We decided to jump in with both feet and have been on the pavement running, so to speak since and trying to get this across the nation.”

The two met when Becher, as an attending doctor, started working in the same department where Betancourt was the nurse director. Eventually, Becher became the department chair and they worked side-by-side in those roles for the next 10 years.

Betancourt and Becher co-founded Maternal 911 in Mt. Pleasant as a place where teams providing care to pregnant women can find up-to-date information on maternal emergencies. The goal is to decrease mortality rates and increase positive outcomes for pregnant, laboring, and postpartum patients.

After being born, there is always a possibility that a baby can have serious, life-threatening issues like having trouble breathing or heart problems.

A program called Neonatal Resuscitation Program helps health care professionals better understand what to do when these types of situations come up, and Betancourt and Becher say they have been through this program multiple times, going through the program every two years. 

“I wanted something similar for the mom because there's a lot of emergencies that can happen,” Becher says. “If we can practice those and have education behind it then when those really rare circumstances happen, we've at least been through simulations and had an idea about what the first and next steps are to help with that emergency.”

Betancourt says the maternal mortality rate in Michigan is 19.4 per 100,000 live births. 

Healthcare professionals in California have noticed the high numbers and created a collaborative of education as an expectation to go through, according to Betancourt. California’s maternal mortality rate is down to four per 100,000 live births.

Maternal 911 has different modules in the program covering patient safety that contains information for health care professionals to go through for maternal care. These mini-lessons give up-to-date information about maternal emergencies.

The health care providers take a pretest and a post-test before and after the modules to ensure their understanding. Betancourt and Becher say they can see progress in each participant and they are thrilled.  

“They gain knowledge and that's so cool,” Becher says. “Don't get me wrong, all these teams have a basis of knowledge, but if we can keep things top of mind and keep things just underneath so if something does happen, they can pull out these tools and help them through the emergency and help the mom or help the baby, whatever is needed.”

Making a difference in the Mt. Pleasant community together, Maternal 911 was recognized as the 2021 CMURC Mount Pleasant SmartZone Small Business of the Year.

Earlier in their careers, Betancourt and Becher became adjunct professors at Central Michigan University with a satellite office in Mt. Pleasant and got connected to the Central Michigan University Research Corporation (CMURC) during that time. Becher says they have worked closely with the organization which has helped them along the way.

Erin Strang, president and CEO of CMURC, says the goal behind the organization is to increase economic development through their accelerator program and diverse and professional co-working space serving as a hybrid of the university and Mt. Pleasant.

CMURC serves multiple counties, including Mt. Pleasant where its headquarters is located, along with Midland, Bay City, and Saginaw.

“Some of the entrepreneurs and people that we help need space, some of them need help getting their business started, and some of them need both,” Strang says. “We've really created our programs and services designed to do that for any community member.” 

There was the creation of SmartZones in Michigan to build a community that engages the combination of the intellectual capital of a university and all the energy and excitement of the students, according to Strang.

Strang says that CMURC started selecting SmartZone Small Businesses of the Year to allow those businesses state-wide recognition instead of just local acknowledgment. 

“We always like to highlight and celebrate,” Strang says. “When you think about businesses, especially now and over the last couple of years, it's hard work to start and run a business and put all the pieces together that are needed to do that. It's kind of the one time a year where we really take a look at our entrepreneurs and celebrate all the progress that they've been able to make.”

CMURC has helped Maternal 911 along the way since the company's idea started in 2015, to build a non-traditional business in the healthcare system and help solve the maternal mortality rate problem.

“We don't have enough good to say about the level that they've taken us to,” Becher says. “If we ever have questions, they provide us not only with an answer but a person to even go further down the path of where that question takes us. Just everything about that research center is amazing.”

CMURC helped with components of the business including identification of who their customer was, connecting with other professionals, and putting them through the accelerator program. 

While their primary positions in the medical field are for another health care organization during the week, Betancourt and Becher spend their nights and weekends putting time into their private business. Betancourt says that every spare moment they have is for Maternal 911.

“I think the reality is, they have made amazing progress,” Strang says. “We are so excited that they are who we are highlighting this year.”

With several different factors in the process of choosing the winner for the award, Strang says Maternal 911 came out a little bit higher than the other businesses this year.

After the past two years, businesses have faced trial and Strang says Maternal 911 was able to push through those troubles and continue to advance their business.

“We just have a passion for it, to really help drive down maternal mortality rates in any way we can,” Becher says. 
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Read more articles by Addy Wachter.

Addy Wachter is a Grand Haven resident who is currently a student at Central Michigan University. She plans to graduate during the summer of 2023 with a major in photojournalism and a minor in cultural and global studies. Along with working with Epicenter, she is a photographer and writer at Central Michigan Life newspaper who enjoys traveling and exploring new places in her spare time, always taking her camera with her wherever she goes.