As a neonatologist (a physician who takes care of premature or ill newborn infants), Sarah Taylor, MD, knows the importance of putting worried parents at ease.
“Having your newborn in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit [NICU, where Dr. Taylor practices] can be extremely difficult for families. They are trying to take in so much information and they’ve maybe never even heard of the word neonatology before,” Dr. Taylor says. “Plus, they have the emotional stress of a baby who is requiring medical support. I explain things over and over again because I know they may only take in 10 percent of what I say to them each time.”
Fortunately, advances in the field of neonatology and the high level of care at Yale New Haven Hospital means even the sickest babies often do just fine. And watching the littlest babies—some born weighing less than 1 pound—grow, continues to amaze Dr. Taylor. “They are so small and fragile, and then we get to watch them develop. They’ll come back and visit the unit, and they are running down the hall,” she says. “That is the best part of my job.”
Dr. Taylor says she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a doctor, but it wasn’t until she did a rotation in the NICU during her training that she realized neonatology was the subspecialty for her. “You can put your stethoscope on these pre-term babies and hear sounds from their lungs and their bellies at the same time and get so much information from one listen,” she says. “And to take care of these babies, we have to understand how every organ system works, and how it’s developed, because in some ways we are taking care of a fetus. I enjoy the complexity of all we have to consider.”
Dr. Taylor’s research focuses on helping babies grow in ways that optimizes their brain development. She is also an associate professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine.