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Celebrating the Research Legacies of Drs. Barbara Schmidt and Haresh Kirpalani

Published on
May 16, 2018

The Division of Neonatology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia celebrated the remarkable research careers and retirement of two pioneers in neonatal research and medicine, Barbara Schmidt, MD, and Haresh Kirpalani, MD, with a clinical research symposium May 9 and 10. Held at the Union League of Philadelphia, the event brought together the world’s leading experts in neonatal research and evidence-based medicine, many of whom have worked closely with Drs. Schmidt and Kirpalani as trainees, co-authors, and colleagues in the last few decades.

Together, Drs. Schmidt and Kirpalani have devoted more than 30 years to driving evidence-based neonatal research forward and training the next generation of the field’s researchers. Dr. Schmidt, who is an attending neonatologist at CHOP and director of Neonatology Clinical Research at Penn Medicine, has led a host of collaborations and clinical trials in newborns, including the International Trial of Caffeine for Apnea of Prematurity. In 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics honored Dr. Schmidt with the William A. Silverman Lectureship Award, and in 2015, she received the prestigious Order of Canada.

Dr. Kirpalani, who is an attending neonatologist at CHOP and Emeritus Professor CE of Pediatrics at Penn Medicine, has made critical contributions to advancing neonatal clinical trials as well as to ethics and decision-making in newborn medicine. Dr. Kirpalani co-founded the International Society for Evidence-based Neonatology, a nonprofit organization that promotes the belief that neonatal care should be firmly built on the best available evidence. In 2015, Dr. Kirpalani was named CHOP Mentor of the Year.

“Barbara Schmidt and Haresh Kirpalani have been with [the Division of Neonatology at CHOP] for the last decade, and they have a long history of wonderful contributions to neonatal clinical trials, epidemiology, and research that has led to major changes in how we take care of premature newborns,” said Eric Eichenwald, MD, chief of the Division of Neonatology at CHOP, during last week’s symposium. “Because of that long legacy, we thought that the most appropriate thing for us to do would be to have a research conference to highlight not only their own work but also the work of many people whom they’ve worked with over the years and many of the people they’ve trained.”

Indeed, the symposium’s lively debates and discussions highlighted just how much Drs. Schmidt and Kirpalani have contributed to the field through both research and mentoring.

The lineup of speakers included investigators from institutions around the world, including McMaster University in Montreal, the University Hospital Zurich, the Women and Children’s Hospital in South Australia, and more. The sessions covered a variety of topics, from how to interpret composite outcomes in neonatal therapy trials, to parental consent for neonatal care, to how to move toward evidence-based care in the delivery room. The energetic question periods that followed each lecture illustrated the high standards by which members of the neonatal research community hold each other’s work, and the culture of rigor and excellence cultivated by Drs. Schmidt and Kirpalani at CHOP.

During a section focused on evidence-based individualized care, Erik A. Jensen, MD, MSCE, attending neonatologist at CHOP, presented his research in a lecture entitled, “Choosing Route of Feeding for Infants with Severe Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD).” Meanwhile, Sara DeMauro, MD, MSCE, attending neonatologist at CHOP, gave her presentation, “Outcomes of Infants with Severe BPD,” as part of a section on neonatal care outcomes. In her introductory remarks to the symposium, Dr. DeMauro also spoke briefly about working with Drs. Schmidt and Kirpalani as a young clinician-researcher.

“I am one of the lucky people who had the pleasure of growing up under Barbara and Haresh’s tutelage,” Dr. DeMauro said. “It has been such an honor to have spent the last eleven years working with them, and I think you’ll see from the speakers today that so many of us have learned different things and managed to take things in different directions, but we all started in the same place, which is the wisdom and the very strong guidance that Barbara and Haresh have provided us.”

The symposium also featured Dr. Schmidt’s annual presentation of the 2018 Kristine Sandberg Kniseley Lectureship Award, established in 1980 to honor Kristine Sandberg Knisely, MD, and expand perinatal physiology research and its application to public health efforts. During her time at CHOP and Penn Medicine, the late Dr. Kniseley, who was a neonatologist, professor, and a member of several organizations devoted to child and maternal health, made valuable contributions to neonatology practice.

This year marked the final time that Dr. Schmidt would present the Kniseley Lectureship. The award’s 2018 recipient, Alan Jobe, MD, PhD, professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, presented his lecture, “Pitfalls of Applying Research Evidence Obtained in Highly Developed Settings Elsewhere in the World.”

Finally, to conclude the celebration, Dr. Eichenwald announced the establishment of a new Schmidt-Kirpalani Mentorship Award: an ode to the extensive mentoring work of Drs. Schmidt and Kirpalani that will be presented every year at the same time as the Kniseley Lectureship. Dr. Eichenwald introduced the award’s inaugural recipient, Rebecca Simmons, MD, attending neonatologist at CHOP, whose research focuses on elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms that link fetal growth retardation to the later development of obesity and type 2 diabetes in adulthood.

Learn more about Dr. Schmidt’s William A. Silverman Lectureship Award in this Cornerstone Q&A.

Read about Dr. Kirpalani’s work on the Sustained Aeration of Infant Lungs (SAIL) Trial, an international clinical trial, in this blog post. And learn more about Drs. Schmidt and Kirpalani’s decades-long research legacy here.