Tohma Morrison

Legends in Neonatology

Tohma Morrison
Legends in Neonatology

Texas Children's Neonatology Service was founded in 1971 with 20 beds and five isolation units. Today, our Newborn Center provides the highest level of care to approximately 2,500 newborns annually. With 173 total beds, 76 level IV beds are dedicated to the care of babies with complex heart and neurologic conditions.

The Newborn Center is ranked as one of the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.


Texas Children’s original NICU in 1974.

Texas Children’s original NICU in 1974.

The words “neonatology” and “neonatologist” first appeared in print in 1960. Eleven years after the terms hit the lexicon, Neonatology Services in Texas were created at Texas Children’s Hospital by newborn medicine pioneer Dr. Murdina MacFarquahar Desmond, a Baylor College of Medicine pediatrician. Hailing from Isle of Lewis in Scotland, Desmond began her work with newborns in 1948. In the early 1950s, in the midst of the postwar Baby Boom era, she worked in the nursery at Jefferson Davis Hospital, the Baylor-affiliated teaching hospital in Houston. In 1954, Desmond became a charter staff member of Texas Children’s Hospital and laid the groundwork for research, training opportunities and physician recruitment related to newborn care.

To assist with the work, Desmond recruited Dr. Arnold Jack Rudolph from South Africa in 1961. Together, Desmond and Rudolph transformed newborn care. In 1963, Desmond wrote her landmark article, “Clinical Behavior of the Newly Born.” This article described in detail the recovery and reactive periods of newborns. Desmond and Rudolph were also crucial in establishing the very first neonatal intensive care unit in the southwest between 1964 and 1965 at Jefferson Davis Hospital. Another accomplishment of the Desmond and Rudolph partnership included the first discovery of expanded rubella syndrome in the United States. These early medical advances culminated with the opening of the first NICU at Texas Children’s Hospital with four beds and a 25-crib nursery at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in 1971 – the “official” beginning of Neonatology Services at Texas Children’s Hospital. Over the next several decades, the following milestones helped propel Texas Children’s to the forefront of neonatal care.

Dr. Reba Michels Hill publishes numerous articles on the epidemiology of drugs ingested by pregnant women

Dr. Arnold Rudolph establishes Texas Children’s Neonatology fellowship, what would become one of the largest  in the country

The Kangaroo Crew®, one of the firstneonatal transport teams consisting of specially trained neonatology nurses and fellows, is launched at Texas Children’s Hospital

The first NICU Family Reunion was held for former patients and families who had received care in Texas Children’s NICU. This tradition has been held annually every year since.

Dr. Murdina Desmond retires  as chief after more than 30 years at Texas Children’s Hospital

A new program created to teach neonatal nurse clinicians the skills necessary to carry out primary patient management in the NICU is launched at Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Perinatal Center was created, allowing a team of Texas Children’s physicians and nurses to be in delivery rooms to help with the care and transfer of very low birth weight infants

Dr. Rudolph passes away after spending his 40-year career at Texas Children’s Hospital

More than 120 members of the Texas Children’s Neonatology team care for the Chukwu babies, the world’s first set of octuplets to be born alive


More than 2,500 infants are cared for each year in Texas Children’s Newborn Center making us one of the largest, most experienced NICUs in the country. Our Newborn Center is led by a multidisciplinary team of neonatal physicians and nurses who are internationally recognized for their knowledge in the care of premature and critically ill infants. We offer the highest level of neonatal intensive care available, and are affiliated with nine level II NICUs in the Houston area, bringing Texas Children’s same quality of care and high standards to outlying areas of the city. 

The Newborn Center provides all services that critically ill or premature babies might need, including:

  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernias
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Spina bifida treatments
  • Hirschprung’s disease treatments
  • Body cooling treatments
  • Small bowel atresia repairs
  • Surgical care of gastroschisis
  • Surgical care of omphalocele
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula or esophageal atresia repairs

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The Texas Children’s Fetal Center®

Texas Children’s Fetal Center is one of only a few centers in the country to offer the full spectrum of fetal therapies. We provide comprehensive care to meet the needs of pregnant women, including advanced diagnostic procedures and consultation to help families understand complex diagnoses and plan for the most appropriate care.

Mothers have access to fetal therapies including fetal surgery and fetal intervention. For infants in need of specialized care, Texas Children’s provides access to our level IV NICU and expert pediatric subspecialists.

Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women

As a leader in the fields of obstetrics, gynecology, fetal and neonatal medicine, Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women strives to offer the most advanced technologies and treatments available. We believe in giving women, mothers and babies quality health care at every important stage of their lives.