2022 Annual Quality Congress

AAP/VON Scholar Awards

AAP/VON Scholar Awards are awarded to five fellows and early career neonatologists in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Neonatal Perinatal Medicine (SoNPM). The award recognizes future leaders in newborn care who exemplify dedication to data-driven quality improvement in the care of infants and families.


  • Recognition as an AAP/VON Scholar for the recipient and their institution.
  • Opportunity to present on QI work during a VON Grand Rounds webinar and 2022 Annual Quality Congress.
  • Complimentary registration and travel stipend for the 2022 Annual Quality Congress.
  • Opportunity to share improvement poster at the 2022 Annual Quality Congress.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants must be a member of the AAP SONPM Trainee and Early Career Neonatology (TECaN) group to qualify for this award.

Previous AAP/VON Scholars are not eligible to apply for the award; however, they are welcome and encouraged to attend the Annual Quality Congress and display a poster at the Poster Expo.

To Apply

  • Develop a one page (maximum) personal statement indicating your interest in quality improvement, long-term aspirations in this field, as well as why/how attending the VON Annual Quality Congress would be important to advance your training and career goals.
  • Provide an up-to-date Curriculum Vitae.
  • Complete a brief online application, including describing your role and lessons you learned in a recent quality improvement project.
  • Application deadline:  May 13, 2022 June 3, 2022

For conceptual questions about the application and/or support for fellows and early career neonatologists at VON, contact Colby Day, VON Fellows Liaison, colby.lauren@gmail.com.

For technical assistance, please contact Phil Bieber at pbieber@vtoxford.org.

2021 AAP/VON Scholars

Daniela Matias Feitosa Titchiner, MD

Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellow
Duke University Hospital

Dr. Daniela Titchiner is a third year fellow in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Originally from Recife, Brazil, Dr. Titchiner immigrated to American when she was 8 years old. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, graduating from Gordon College and medical degree at Ross University School of Medicine. She completed her Pediatric Residency at Stony Brook University Hospital where she was first exposed to the world of QI. Thanks to her excellent mentors, she has developed a passion for quality improvement, leading several projects across the pediatric and neonatology divisions, focusing on improving outcomes for infants with asymptomatic hypoglycemia. Dr. Titchiner has also been involved in several Quality Improvement and Leadership Courses that have allowed her to have a deeper understanding of QI methodology. During her career, she has had the opportunity to travel and provide medical care in Brazil, Israel, Dominica, Uganda, and the USA. Combining her love for quality improvement with her passion for global health has been one of her goals. As an element of this goal, she is currently involved in the American Academy of Pediatrics/Ethiopian Pediatric Society Project ECHO, which is a virtual mentorship between US mentors and Ethiopian Clinicians in formulating and carrying out QI projects in Ethiopia. After completing her fellowship, she plans to continue to finesse her skills in QI with the goal of continuing to improve neonatal and newborn outcomes. She is an active member of the AAP, and currently holds a position as a Regional Representative in the Trainees and Early Career Neonatologists (TeCAN) executive council. She is excited to welcome her twin daughters this fall with husband Matthew.

Vargabi Ghei, MD

Envision Physician Services
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Weill-Cornell Medical College

Dr. Vargabi Ghei is a Neonatologist with Envision Physician Services and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Weill-Cornell Medical College. She is from Bronx, New York.  She attended college at Johns Hopkins University and medical school at NYU School of Medicine. She completed her Pediatric Residency at Jacobi Hospital in Bronx, New York and Fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Weill-Cornell in New York City.  After completing fellowship in 2017, she served as an Attending Neonatologist and the Director of Quality Improvement in the Lower Manhattan Hospital NICU (an affiliate of Weill-Cornell Medicine) where she led several Quality Improvement projects.  She is a 2020 graduate of the Weill-Cornell Quality Improvement Academy and is also currently pursuing a Master’s in Health Care Quality at the George Washington University. Her goals in Quality Improvement are to use data-driven methods to enhance family-centered care in community-hospital NICUs and to incorporate social determinants of health into discharge planning.

Helen Healy, MD

Neonatology Faculty
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Harvard Medical School

Helen Healy, MD, MPH has recently graduated from the Harvard Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship Training Program and joined the neonatology faculty at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Healy received a Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University and her MD/MPH at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and College of Public Health. Dr. Healy completed pediatric residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Healy’s career goals encompass academic neonatology and quality improvement science.

Melissa Schmatz, MD

Attending Neonatologist
CHOP Newborn Care Network at Virtua

Dr. Melissa Schmatz is an attending neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Newborn Care Network-Virtua. She obtained her BA in Psychology from Tufts University and her Medical Degree from Tufts University School of Medicine. She completed both her Pediatric Residency and Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship at CHOP.

During Dr. Schmatz’s post graduate training, she began to realize her passion for quality improvement. Her fellowship scholarly project, improving time to antibiotic management in neonatal sepsis, was recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics (2020). She was an invited speaker at the Levine Children’s Quality Improvement Coaching Conference (2017) and is currently enrolled in the Masters of Healthcare Quality and Safety at the University of Pennsylvania.

As an attending physician, Dr. Schmatz has rapidly become a leader in the realm of quality improvement and safety at the Virtua NICU. She heads several projects focusing on improving delivery room care as well as the management of chronic lung disease.  She is acting as the NICU Safety Officer, working closely with medical and nursing leadership to improve the unit’s culture of safety. Her future career goals include establishing a safety curriculum model for similar community NICUs and pursuing a hospital-based quality and safety leadership position.

Samuel Gentle, MD

Assistant Professor, Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics
Chair, Clinical Competency Committee
Chair, Fellowship Education Committee
Neonatal Lead, Alabama Perinatal Quality Collaborative

Dr. Gentle is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He completed medical school and his neonatology fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and his residency in pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Gentle’s primary research interests are in identifying novel mechanisms contributory to pulmonary disease in preterm infants. Through a recently awarded R21 from the NICHD he is currently investigating elements of nitrate metabolism predictive of BPD development. His parallel quality improvement work has focused upon systematic patient assessment and communication within the NICU with prior and current initiatives involving multidisciplinary utilization of oxygen saturation histogram analysis and standardizing ventilator weaning in extremely preterm infants. As the neonatal lead in the Alabama Perinatal Quality Collaborative, he served as co-lead of a birth certificate accuracy initiative, currently serves as project lead for a recently launched Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome Initiative and will soon be launching a telesimulation program for neonatal resuscitation education at multiple sites across the state.