Division History

The Division of Neonatology is notable for its many contributions to the field of neonatal intensive care. Although the division was not officially founded until May of 1959, our clinician-scientists contributed substantially to the field before that.

Dr. Richard L. Day, a pioneer in neonatal medicine, joined the faculty of Babies Hospital in 1935. His landmark studies on the effects of bilirubin on the rat brain led to the hypothesis that bilirubin was the damaging agent to the extrapyramidal nuclei, not merely a yellow marker of damage. Dr. Day established the first unit for premature infants in the nation at Babies Hospital in 1949.

Dr. William Silverman was a disciple of Richard Day and is considered by many the father of evidence-based neonatal medicine. Dr. Silverman and his trainee Dr. Jack Sinclair undertook some of the first controlled clinical trials in neonatal patients. Dr. Sinclair’s Effective Care of the Preterm Infant was the first textbook entirely devoted to evidence-based neonatal practices, and he helped establish the Neonatal Collaborative Review Group of the Cochrane Collaboration.

Drs. L. Stanley James and Virginia Apgar were among the first investigators to measure the acid-base and oxygen status in the neonatal intensive care unit and made major contributions to the understanding of perinatal and neonatal physiology.

Drs. Mervin Susser, Zina Stein, and Nigel Paneth helped establish the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center at Columbia University, one of the first centers to foster perinatal and pediatric epidemiology.

The division also has a long-standing interest in neurodevelopment and has well-established collaborations with developmental psychobiologists at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.