Hallam Hurt MD

Dr. Hallam Hurt is a neonatologist who has cared for sick and at-risk babies for more than four decades.  She is a faculty member at PolicyLab and a professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in the Division of Neonatology and Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. In this capacity Dr. Hurt is an attending neonatologist in the Intensive Care Nursery at the Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania, a role in which she not only cares for babies and their families but also is actively involved in teaching medical students, residents, and fellows . In 2003 Dr. Hurt co-founded the Special Babies Clinic, a developmental follow-up clinic for high- risk and preterm infants discharged from the Intensive Care Nursery of the Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania.  This clinic has approximately 600 visits per year, with many families coming from challenging socio-economic conditions found in West Philadelphia. In her role as an attending in Special Babies Clinic Dr. Hurt sees first hand not only outcomes related to extreme prematurity but also the influence of the environment on child development. The Clinic provides an extraordinary opportunity for teaching trainees ranging from medical students to international observers.

  • To attenuate deleterious effects of poverty on our youngest, support for at-risk infants and their families cannot begin too soon.

Dr. Hurt is well known for her investigation of the effects of gestational cocaine exposure on infants.  In 1989 she initiated a study of exposed and non-exposed infants, all of low socio-economic status, that concluded after approximately a quarter of a century.  Her findings, surprising to many, were that exposed and non-exposed subjects did not differ in developmental or cognitive outcome, however, both groups were performing poorly when compared to test norms.  This finding led Dr. Hurt to her current endeavors: investigating effects of poverty on child outcome.  Specifically, she seeks to define which aspects of the environment of poverty most affect child developmental outcome, whether the effects of poverty are detectable in brain structure, and how early in life developmental and brain effects can be identified. Preliminary results of these investigations show effects of poverty are detectable in infancy, far sooner than preschool age.  Given these findings, coupled with the well-established decline in developmental outcome of children raised in poverty, Dr. Hurt has called for an increase in interventions to be initiated in infancy. Interventions at later ages are laudable, but may be well after foundational developmental and neural patterns are in place.  Moreover, Dr. Hurt’s other recent research endeavors include determining trajectories of risk behavior and substance use in adolescents, adolescent suicidal ideation, and gambling in youth.

Dr. Hurt is responsible for a summer endeavor, Special Trips for Special Babies, in which prior at-risk infants and their families visit either the Philadelphia Zoo or the Please Touch Museum. She also is a mentor for and actively involved in Babies and Books, an endeavor in which parents are instructed in the importance of reading to their infants, no matter how preterm, while the infant is hospitalized.

Dr. Hurt is an enthusiastic teacher and advocate, committed to the babies and families for whom she cares.

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