KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — At UT Medical Center, there's a program for pregnant women struggling with substance abuse.

As the doctors and nurses work to help expectant mothers get on a healthier path, Emily Katz has turned her position into a life mission.

“She has a passion for these women, understands where they've been and tries to look on the brighter side of things, most of our success is because of Emily,” said Craig Towers, a doctor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine for High Risk Obstetrical Consultants, a medical practice at UTMC that specializes in caring for women with various risk factors that may affect their pregnancy.

Going far beyond her job description as a Substance Abuse Coordinator, Katz doesn't just meet with patients when they check in, she makes it her goal to help them in ways that extend past their pregnancy. She buys diapers, searches for cribs if they need one, and helps them enroll in recovery centers.

“The most important thing to me is providing support to them. When they[patients] come in, I always ask, ‘who do you have for support? What does your support system look like?’ As I began asking these questions, I realized a lot of these girls have nobody,’ Katz said.

Rachel Solomon was one of those patients. When she walked into the clinic, pregnant and addicted to drugs, Katz helped her find housing at the Helen Ross McNabb Center.

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“She was the first person I really trusted. She helped me learn how to trust people again. She helped guide me through being a momma and kept telling me I could do it and I'm strong,” Solomon said.

Katz' passion to help the women who walk through the door stems from her own heartache. 

After losing a brother to addiction and nearly a daughter, she knew she wanted to help others avoid the same pain.

“After that happened, it was a real eye-opening experience for me. That's kind of what I pull from. It's my drive. That's where the passion to help these other girls comes from,” Katz said.

She recalled feeling at her lowest point while her daughter was struggling with addiction. When a friend rushed to her house to be with them, praying and crying together, Katz said her kindness left a lasting impact.

“Those people you come across who just go above and beyond to help somebody that the rest of the world just turns their back on. What a huge impact that was. Why wouldn’t I want to offer someone else that same hope and love and friendship?” Katz said.

If you know someone like Katz who pays it forward in our community, send an email to EDeVoe@WBIR.com to share their story.