NIDCAP Nursery Assessment and Certification Program 

Site Review Team

Karen Smith photoKaren M. Smith, MEd, BSN, RNC

Ms. Karen Smith received her graduate degree from the University of Idaho in Adult Education.  She is the Co-Director of the NIDCAP Training Center at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho. St. Luke’s newborn intensive care nursery is the first recognized NIDCAP Certified Nursery.  Ms. Smith is a Master NIDCAP Trainer and a Clinical Developmental Specialist and Developmental Care Educator. She is a Co-Chair of the NIDCAP Nursery Assessment and Certification Steering Committee. Ms. Smith has 40 years of experience as a professional nurse in the areas of adult intensive care, oncology, newborn intensive care nursing and newborn developmental follow-up clinic. She has provided NIDCAP Training to a variety of settings in the USA, Europe, and Asia. Ms. Smith’s areas of interest are respiratory care, sleep, pain management, staff development and education, family education and support, and Kangaroo Mother Care. She has lectured and published in these areas of interest.

Roger Sheldon photoRoger E. Sheldon, MD, MPH

Dr. Roger Sheldon is Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics in the Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Division and was Assistant Dean for Continuing Medical Education at the Oklahoma University College of Medicine. He trained in Bloomington, Illinois, Chicago, Boston, and Denver, and was on the faculty of the University of Colorado before coming to Oklahoma in 1979. Dr. Sheldon completed his Master’s Degree in Public Health (emphasizing Epidemiology and Biostatistics) at OU in 1995. He has served the University of Oklahoma as Neonatal Section Chief, and as Medical Director of the Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In Colorado and Oklahoma, he innovated, trained nurse practitioners, and published a book on “The Expanding Role of the Nurse in Neonatal Intensive Care.” He was one of the first to formalize this model of care stimulating the development of advanced practice nursing and the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner model, now standard in most NICUs throughout the USA. In addition to his responsibilities as an attending physician in neonatal intensive care and in CME, he was Medical Director of the Neoflight newborn transport program of MediFlight Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Infant Transition Program (a referral, support and education program for families graduating from neonatal intensive care), the Sooner NIDCAP Training Center (the state’s resource for training NICU professionals in family-centered, developmentally appropriate care of preterm infants and their families) , and the Oklahoma Area-wide Services Information System (OASIS) (the state-wide 800 number hotline and directory for services to children with disabilities). Dr. Sheldon retired from the University of Oklahoma in 2010.


Jim Helm head shotJames M. Helm, PhD

Dr. James Helm received his doctorate in Special Education at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1987. He currently is an Infant-Family Development Specialist at WakeMed, Neonatology, Raleigh, North Carolina and is a NIDCAP Trainer and the Director of the Carolina NIDCAP Training Center. For 9 years he directed the Hospital to Home Program serving infants and their families as they transitioned from the Newborn Intensive Care Unit to their home and community. Dr. Helm currently serves on the Board of Directors of the NIDCAP Federation International and is the Vice President for Administration.  For over 20 years he had academic appointments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and they included Clinical Associate Professor in Pediatrics; Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Education, Department of Special Education; and Adjunct Assistant Professor, Allied Health Professions, Division of Physical Therapy, UNC at Chapel Hill.

gretchen Lawhon photogretchen Lawhon, PhD, RN, CBC, FAAN

Dr. gretchen Lawhon is a clinical nurse scientist who has worked in the arena of newborn intensive care for 35 years and has 39 years of experience as a nurse.  Currently she is President of the NIDCAP Federation International and Master NIDCAP Trainer with the West Coast NIDCAP and APIB Training Center at the University of California in San Francisco.  She has been integrally involved since the NIDCAP program began and was co-investigator in several of the early research studies supporting an individualized developmentally supportive approach to care of infants and families in the newborn intensive unit. Dr. Lawhon’s own dissertation was Facilitation of Parenting with the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the University of Washington School of Nursing.  She was co-investigator of the NINR funded Stability of Infant Responses to Painful Procedures study.  Dr. Lawhon has extensive experience as a clinical nurse scientist and has authored numerous articles in her areas of expertise.

Deborah Buehler photoDeborah Buehler, PhD

Dr. Deborah Buehler received her graduate training at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (Master’s Degree in Human Development, 1986) and at Boston University (Doctorate in Developmental Psychology, 1993). She is currently the Associate Director of the West Coast NIDCAP and APIB Training Center at the University of California in San Francisco. She trains internationally as a Master NIDCAP Trainer and an APIB Trainer. Dr. Buehler serves as the NIDCAP Federation International Board of Director’s Vice President of Organizational Advancement, Chair of the Advancement Committee, and Member of the Executive Council. She is an Associate Editor of the NFI’s Developmental Observer.

Melissa Johnson photoMelissa R. Johnson, PhD

Dr. Melissa Johnson received her B.A. in psychology from Duke University, and completed her Ph.D at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980.  Her clinical, teaching and research activities have all focused on infant mental health and on high-need children and families, particularly preterm infants, and children with medical conditions, developmental disabilities, or experiences of abuse and neglect.  She has also published on the use of play and imagination in children’s coping.  Since 1986, she has been employed at WakeMed and Wake Area Health Education Center as a pediatric psychologist and coordinator of the Developmental Team of the Pediatric/Neonatalogy Teaching Service. In this position, she provides clinical services to the children and families in the neonatal, pediatric, and outpatient follow-up clinic services at WakeMed, as well as serving as an educational resource for professionals in the region and as instructor and mentor for medical and graduate students from UNC and other institutions.  Dr. Johnson is certified in the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale, the Assessment of Preterm Infant Behavior, and is certified as a Trainer in NIDCAP (Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program).  She has appointments as Adjunct Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine. She is currently President of the NC Infant/Young Child Mental Health Association.

Nikk Conneman photoNikk Conneman, MD

Dr. Nikk Conneman received his medical training at the Erasmus University Medical School in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. His pediatrics residency was done at Maastricht University Hospital and Amsterdam Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in Neonatology at Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands, where his interest in NIDCAP started. He worked as a research assistant at the Neurobehavioral Infant and Child Studies Laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He currently holds a position as a staff neonatologist at the Erasmusmc-Sophia Children’s Hospital NICU, in Rotterdam.  He is also the Director of the Sophia NIDCAP Training Center and a Senior NIDCAP Trainer. Dr. Conneman serves on the board of the NIDCAP Federation International, the advisory board for Babybloom Healthcare, The Committee for Medical Ethical Dilemmas of the Erasmusmc and the Foundation for Family and Patient Centered Intensive Care (adults) in the Netherlands. He was awarded the Richard de Leeuw Price 2014 for his contributions to the wellbeing of parents and patients in neonatal care in the Netherlands.

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