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Sharp Health News

Helping preterm infants grow and thrive

June 27, 2018

Sharp Mary Birch’s NICU Follow-Up Clinic

Sarah and Cameron Smith were already parents of five children when they found out they were expecting another child. That sixth pregnancy ended up being unexpected triplets.

Their babies, Lilly, Ben and Henry, were born at 31 weeks gestation at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, where they spent four weeks in the NICU receiving specialized care before they went home.

The Smith triplets are just a few of the 400 children followed closely by the Nemeth NICU Follow-Up Clinic at Sharp Mary Birch. This team of world-class clinicians and caregivers focuses on making sure babies born preterm have the best possible chance to grow into thriving, healthy, school-ready learners.

"It's so important for NICU graduates to receive comprehensive assessments of their development," says Julie Novak, executive director of the clinic, which will open an expanded location in fall 2018. "Premature babies sometimes have delays in one or more areas, and we need to connect children and families with necessary therapies and resources as early as possible."

Caregivers at the clinic follow up with preterm babies at 6 months, 12 months, 18 to 24 months and beyond, depending on the needs of the child and family. Cognitive, language and motor development are all assessed. During a recent visit with the Smith triplets, the 21-month-olds were given several cognitive tests as specially trained pediatric nurse practitioners introduced developmentally appropriate toys including colorful blocks, puzzles, books and balls, and opportunities for imaginative play.

"Lilly is a calm balance to the boys, who are very rough and tumble," says their mother, Sarah. If a child is not meeting specific milestones, clinicians will recommend therapies to foster healthy development. "The goal of regular visits with families is also to empower parents to work with their children on developmental skills between scheduled visits," Novak says. The importance of daily reading and playing classical music are ways that parents can stimulate language and cognitive development.

The Nemeth NICU Follow-Up Clinic also collaborates closely with the Neonatal Research Institute at Sharp Mary Birch, which conducts research on innovative interventions and therapies for at-risk newborns.

"The powerful combination of both the Neonatal Research Institute and the Nemeth NICU Follow-Up Clinic will continue to provide better outcomes and healthier families here and around the globe," says Novak.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Julie Novak about the Nemeth NICU Follow-Up Clinic at Sharp Mary Birch for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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