Last Updated: Nov 8, 2023
When Shaili Amatya, MD started her residency at Pediatrics Maimonides Medical Center in New York, she already knew she wanted to study neonatology.
“I went into my pediatric residency and even at that moment, I was drawn towards these neonates. That’s how I structured my residency studies. By the time I reached my fellowship, I knew I wanted to do lung research.”
After finishing her studies, she took a position with Penn State Health Children’s Hospital as a physician scientist where, along with her clinical work, she can study and investigate mechanisms of how lung diseases develop in preterm babies.
Dr. Amatya says that her drive for her research comes with wanting to provide these babies with a good long-term life without complications.
“These babies are born as early as 23-week gestations. They weigh nearly a pound or so,” she said. “Some of them stay with us for weeks and months in the NICU. I wanted to learn why some babies are healthy and lucky, but others need more breathing support that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
The focus of her studies is surfactant protein, its receptors and how the baby regulates its immune system. To do these studies, she uses small mouse pups.
“We use animal models, specifically mouse pups and expose them to infection and recapitulate to study the lungs and samples. We want to learn how the intracellular communication works.”
Another focus of her work was implementing and establishing guidelines on the Bubble CPAP, a non-invasive ventilation strategy for newborns. The guidelines improved the overall usage of the Bubble CPAP and made sure babies were being weened appropriately. This helps the preterm babies in being able to make their way home to their families.
Dr. Amatya said, “As a neonatologist and a physician, to be able to send these babies home with their families but also to make sure their long-term quality of life is good, that’s what weighs on my mind. It’s not enough that the babies survive but their quality of life is the best we could provide.”
“It’s such a humble profession and its very gratifying in the same sense. I feel fortunate to be able to do the work I do and at the end of the day if I can make a positive difference in these babies’ lives, it’s important.