The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control along with several partners are one of six groups in the nation to be awarded a $2 million grant for studying how congenital heart defects impact patients throughout their lives and identifying ways to support impacted families.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities Branch announced it will award the $2 million funding over a five-year period to help South Carolina examine health outcomes and quality of life challenges for people living with congenital heart defects.

Almost one percent of all babies born in the state are impacted by a congenital heart defect, and 25 percent of those babies are born with a critical defect that requires surgery or other procedures in the first year of life.

“DHEC’s birth defects program has partnered with physicians and organizations across the state to examine this important issue,” said Nick Davidson, Interim Director of Public Health at DHEC. “This grant from CDC will be a great opportunity to serve South Carolinians living with congenital heart defects as well as the clinicians who support them.”

Cardiologists collaborating with DHEC include Dr. Eric Graham at the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Sri O. Rao of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, and Dr. Susan Haynes and Dr. Manisha Patel of Prisma Health. South Carolina’s team is unique in that it also will assess genetic risk factors for people living with congenital heart defects through a partnership with Dr. Roger Stevenson of Greenwood Genetic Center. Additionally, health care utilization among patients with the condition will be assessed through assistance from the S.C. Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs.

"Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect and affect thousands of people in our state," explained Vinita Oberoi Leedom, primary investigator of the grant and manager of the S.C. Birth Defects Program. “Through this opportunity, our team of dedicated professionals will strive to make a positive difference in the lives of impacted individuals and families."

To learn more about congenital heart defects, visit the CDC’s website at