NICU Opens Its Doors to New Division Chief of Neonatology at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego

Dr. Gail Knight

November 30, 2010, San Diego: As the Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego opens its doors to California’s newest and largest Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), newly named Division Chief of Neonatology, Dr. Gail Knight, stays back to take one last look at the original NICU that had long outgrown itself. Flashbacks of when she had first walked through that door 18 years ago, came alive again, and memories of families, colleagues, and friends who had experienced so much heartache and love in caring for critically ill babies over the past few decades, all made it hard to say goodbye to those old walls that held so much.

“The best part about our Division is that everyone looks out for each other like a family,” shares Dr. Knight, neonatologist and clinical professor in pediatrics at UC San Diego. “We believe in what we do, we believe in each other, and we deeply care about serving our primary purpose - to provide the best care and support for critically ill newborns and their families.”

Formerly the Medical Director of the NICU for the past 10 years, Dr. Knight was acutely aware that the NICU was bursting at its seams. Together with the entire Neonatology Division, the hospital, the community, and the pediatrics department, Dr. Knight helped create the blueprints of what would be the new NICU in the Acute Care Pavilion. Shelves were stacked with huge 3-inch binders, filled with ideas, codes, equipment, and detailed designs, for the ‘dream NICU.’

With much support from the pediatric and Rady Children’s Hospital communities, Dr. Knight was appointed as the new Division Chief of Neonatology on September 1st – six weeks before the opening of the new NICU. Named one of San Diego’s Top Doctors, Dr. Knight is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is board certified in pediatrics and neonatal-perinatal medicine. She earned her medical degree from the University of California, San Diego. Her postgraduate training included a pediatric residency and fellowship in neonatology at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Knight has a special clinical interest in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Her research has focused on the exogenous surfactant and inhaled nitric oxide use in infants and children with respiratory failure, and currently the physiological impact of music in reducing stress in critically ill neonates.

“We are here if you call any of us, anytime,” Dr. Knight emphasizes. “We don’t just take care of the babies – we’re here for the families too.”

Built to meet an increase in demand for neonatal intensive care, the RCHSD NICU can hold 49 infants, and is the only Level IIIC center in California with new state-of-the-art private rooms fully equipped for newborn intensive care, private conversations, bonding, and feeding.

At present, the Division provides a full staff of 13 board certified neonatologists and 12 neonatal nurse practitioners/physicians assistants available for consultation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to NICU’s within the RCHSD, Scripps, and Palomar/Pomerado Healthcare Systems (95 neonatal beds total).

Top ranked nationally by the U.S. News and World Report for the third year in a row, the Division of Neonatology is also recognized as an ECMO Center of Excellence, meeting the highest levels of critically ill newborn survival outcomes. In addition to delivering excellent care for all newborns needing intensive care in San Diego, the Division of Neonatology is a designated training center for physicians and nurses across California. In collaboration with the Academic Neonatology Division at UC San Diego’s Medical Center in Hillcrest, Division faculty members teach 9 Neonatal Fellows who spend a significant portion of their 3-year fellowship at the Rady Children’s Hospital NICU.

“Over the next 5 years, we hope to increase our ability to share our evidence-based knowledge, especially as an educational resource to future pediatrics residents and fellows,” Dr. Knight envisions. “In expanding our research arm, we will not only improve outcomes for newborns in our intensive care, but also participate in the advancement of medicine.”

Written by: Shivani Singh, Sr. Writer, Department of Pediatrics, UC San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital s1singh@ucsd.edu

Comments: Dr. Gail Knight, Chief, Division of Neonatology, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, Department of Pediatrics, UC San Diego lquade@rchsd.org