Our History of Firsts

The UCSF Division of Neonatology was founded around the creation of the William H. Tooley Intensive Care Nursery in 1964. It was founded in collaboration with the Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI). Over the past 50 years UCSF has developed many benchmarks in Neonatal research and care.

1959 - Discovery of surfactant by John Clements, MD
Dr. Clements discovered this important substance which provides the needed lungs the ability to be functional. Discovery of surfactant is one of the most significant scientific advances in Neonatal research. Dr. Clements has been recognized for his accomplishments by many awards including the Pollin Prize and the Lasker Prize.
1964 - Neonatal Resuscitation
UCSF was a leader in development of protocols for effective neonatal resuscitation. In 1964 at UCSF, a new concept was officially born -- a unit dedicated to monitoring and treating the sickest babies. UCSF's neonatal intensive care unit, now called the William H. Tooley Intensive Care Nursery (ICN), was one of the first of its kind. Over the years, the ICN at UCSF Children's Hospital and similar units worldwide have contributed to the survival and well being of hundreds of thousands of sick and premature infants.
1971 - Development of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
In 1971, Dr. George Gregory published a landmark paper in the New England Journal of Medicine describing the use of CPAP. This mode of ventilation is gentler on the lungs than other types of ventilation and is the most widely used mode of care employed for very premature babies throughout the world in neonatal intensive care units. In recognition of his work, Dr. Gregory received the 2012 Virginia Apgar Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
1981 - First open fetal surgery performed at UCSF
A vesicostomy was placed in a fetus with a urinary obstruction by Dr. Michael Harrison and his UCSF pediatric surgery colleagues. During the 1980s and 1990s, he and his research colleagues developed and refined fetal surgical techniques. This laid the foundation for what became the multidisciplinary Fetal Treatment Center at UCSF specializing in diagnosing and treating birth defects.
2008 - UCSF founded the world’s first Neuro-Intensive Care Nursery (NICN)
The NICN is focused on developing better care and treatment for infants at risk for neurological injury. Currently extreme prematurity is the number one factor leading to rising rates of cerebral palsy in the United States and around the world. UCSF is committed to addressing this all important problem by developing new interdisciplinary standards of care for infants at risk for this type of injury.