A Preemie’s Next Biggest Challenge

Assistant Professor Michelle Kelly, PhD, RN, CRNP

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The journey for a vulnerable infant’s survival does not end at the doors of the neonatal ICU. Dr. Michelle M. Kelly, a pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner, knows that’s where the next stage begins: maximizing ability for all children.

Children born prematurely now make up roughly 12 percent of U.S. births, an epidemic that continues to expand every year as scientific advances increase their survival rates. However, after they leave neonatal ICUs, many infants face health issues that impact their future growth and development.Dr. Kelly’s work evolved from her practice in pediatric intensive care and neonatology. She passionately advocates for increased understanding of the current outcomes of children born prematurely, as this knowledge will facilitate maximizing the potential for all children.

Because prematurity is not a diagnosis with a defined list of resulting conditions, she gains an understanding of these children by identifying the occurrence of their special health-care needs as they age. Among the factors she studies through her quantitative research are working memory (remembering and processing information to carry out directions or learn) and health-related quality of life. The latter, now at the forefront of many medical outcome studies, focuses on the family- or child-centered perception of quality of life as it relates to health. Her goal is a brighter future for all children.