Dr. Elba Simon-Fayard stands in front of NICU crib

This story first appeared in the Summer 2023 edition of Leaps & Bounds.

For Elba Simon-Fayard, MD, her pediatric residency is where she experienced firsthand the vulnerability and resilience of newborn patients, the passion of neonatal nurses, and the love and commitment of parents, which led her to specialize in neonatology.

Simon-Fayard has now devoted her career to providing dedicated care for sick newborns. She serves as a Professor of Pediatrics, Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and Chief of the Division of Neonatology at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.

She says the work of a neonatologist is different from any other medical specialty. 

“When you help newborns recover their health and give them a better chance to survive, you have impacted a life from its very beginning and for is entire duration,” Simon-Fayard said.

While patients often stay in the NICU for an extended period, neonatologists get to know the parents and partner with them, teaching them how to provide the best possible care once they leave the hospital.

For Simon-Fayard, a typical day in a busy unit involves receiving updates from the neonatologist on call during the night, communicating with bedside nurses, examining patients, collecting laboratory and radiology data, and preparing for multidisciplinary bedside rounds. During the afternoon, she teaches health care students and residents, holds conferences with families and other specialties involved in patient care, and prepares for new admissions, transports, and patient discharges.

Despite the challenges and intensity of the work, Simon-Fayard finds the greatest joy in seeing special cases when all seems lost, a glimmer of hope shows up, and the baby improves, sometimes without a logical explanation. 

“Seeing those babies during the most difficult times of their lives able to finally go home after beating all odds, and later receiving birthday pictures of happy and healthy children means the world to us. They have become our family too.”

Simon-Fayard's journey has been one of constant learning, improvement, and educating. Her legacy is one of compassion, dedication, and commitment to the well-being of newborn infants and their families.