Jean Chelala, MD
Specialty: Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
Hospitals: Vassar Brothers Medical Center; Putnam Hospital Center
As chairman of pediatrics and director of neonatology at Putnam Hospital Center, Jean Chelala, MD, takes pride and passion in helping children thrive — especially those who face the highest obstacles at birth. When newborns are premature or have birth defects, low birth weight, or other conditions that require special medical care, Dr. Chelala guides a team of doctors, nurses and social workers that support these tiny patients and their families. He is also the attending neonatologist for the Regional NICU at Westchester Medical Center.
What do you enjoy most about your patient population?
My patients are tiny, beautiful, totally helpless, and absolutely dependent on us to improve and to thrive. I enjoy the most when a sick baby gets better, with no deficit, after you thought his chances at having a normal life were slim.
What drew you to the perinatal and neonatal sub-specialty of pediatrics?
If you are looking for a quick reward for your actions, this is the specialty you need to choose. I enjoy seeing improvement from day to day or week to week in sick babies who have started on a rough course from the first hours of life. Nothing is more rewarding then helping stressed and overwhelmed parents after the shock of giving birth to a sick baby when they were expecting a healthy, happy newborn. It’s my privilege to guide them through the process until they leave the hospital for a brighter future.
How do you provide the best care for not just babies, but anxious families?
The families get lots of support from the nursing staff and the social workers, and most importantly, by being informed at all times on the care, progress, procedures and outcome of their precious babies.
What developments or breakthroughs in neonatology are helping your practice and patients?
Major improvements in the care of newborns have happened over the last few years. We give corticosteroids to mothers before delivery to treat the severe respiratory complications of prematurity. We use nitric oxide to treat pulmonary hypertension, and head-cooling caps to address brain injuries due to oxygen deprivation at birth. We are still looking for ways to improve nutrition and growth, and deal with the increasing challenges of the opioid epidemic — managing babies suffering from drug withdrawal at birth.