APS and SPR Honor Dr. Donna M. Ferriero with the 2024 Mary Ellen Avery Neonatal Research Award


HOUSTON, September 7, 2023 – The American Pediatric Society (APS) and the Society for Pediatric Research (SPR) are pleased to announce Donna M. Ferriero, MD, MS, as the 2024 Mary Ellen Avery Neonatal Research Award recipient. This award honors a pediatric investigator who has made important contributions to neonatal health through basic or translational research.

Dr. Ferriero is Distinguished Professor, Emeritus Recall, Departments of Neurology and Pediatrics, at the University of California, San Francisco. Her important contributions to neonatal health through basic and translational research include a spectrum of conditions: perinatal stroke, brain injury in the preterm neonate, and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy in the term neonate. Dr. Ferriero’s seminal contribution to understanding neonatal brain injury is recognizing that the brain’s vulnerability to hypoxia-ischemia changes with regional specificity as the brain matures. Thanks to her work, it is known that the baby’s brain is vulnerable to injury even if the adverse consequence is different from that in a mature brain.

In 2013, the APS and SPR established and endowed the Mary Ellen Avery Award. This award honors Dr. Avery’s outstanding lifetime achievements and seminal contributions to neonatal health through her discovery of respiratory distress syndrome, research, academic leadership, and outstanding service to pediatrics and neonatology.

“The American Pediatric Society is delighted to recognize Dr. Ferriero as the recipient of the 2024 Mary Ellen Avery Award for her outstanding contributions to research and education in the field of neonatal medicine,” said Michael R. DeBaun MD, MPH, President of the American Pediatric Society. “Dr. Ferriero’s basic and applied research has changed the course of neonatal neurology for thousands of children. Over 30 years, Dr. Ferriero’s research has focused on the pathobiology of hypoxic-ischemic injury in the developing brain. Her seminal contribution to our understanding of neonatal brain injury is the recognition that, as the brain matures, its vulnerability to hypoxia-ischemia changes with regional specificity. This changing vulnerability is reflected in the primary patterns of brain injury that we all recognize clinically in the term (e.g., basal ganglia pattern) and preterm neonate (e.g., white matter injury). Her research findings overturned the dogma that the “baby brain is plastic”; therefore, less vulnerable to the adverse consequence of hypoxia-ischemia. Through her work, we know that the baby brain is vulnerable to injury even if the consequence differs from that in the mature brain.”

“The Society for Pediatric Research is honored to present the 2024 Mary Ellen Avery Award to Dr. Donna M. Ferriero,” said Cristina M. Alvira, MD, President of the Society for Pediatric Research. “Dr. Ferriero has made a tremendous impact as a clinician scientist by first identifying, at the bedside, an important gap in knowledge regarding how the neonatal brain responds to injury, and subsequently defining, across her career, the mechanisms underlying the neonatal brain’s unique vulnerability to injury. In addition to her extensive contributions to the field of neonatal neuroscience through her research, Dr. Ferriero has also mentored numerous trainees to become independent clinician scientists and academic leaders. She was recognized for these efforts in 2006 by the SPR as the recipient of the Maureen Andrew Mentor Award. Her innovative research and extensive contributions to the field of neonatal brain injury, combined with her exemplary record of mentorship and commitment to the next generation of clinician scientists makes her very deserving of this prestigious award.”

Beyond Dr. Ferriero’s scientific achievements, she has played an important role to the dozens of mentees who have collaborated with her in her lab or on imaging or clinical projects. As mentioned above, in recognition of her outstanding role as a mentor, Dr. Ferriero received SPR’s Maureen Andrew Mentor Award in 2006. Her collaborations go beyond her institution to several global initiatives to improve neonatal health, such as the International Cerebral Palsy Alliance, the LeDucq Scientific Committee, and the Hershey Developmental Brain Injury Conference. Dr. Ferriero’s impact also extends to numerous leadership roles in academic medicine, including her term as the 2014 APS President.

Dr. Ferriero received her MD from University of California, San Francisco, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Developmental Neurobiology also at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Ferriero has 278 peer-reviewed papers and has been NIH-funded since 1987.

For more information about Dr. Ferriero and the Mary Ellen Avery Award, please visit the APS website.


About the American Pediatric Society
The American Pediatric Society (APS) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1888 as the first pediatric society in North America. The mission of the APS is to engage distinguished child health leaders representing the full diversity within the field to shape the future of academic pediatrics. The 1,800 plus members of APS are recognized leaders of extraordinary achievement who work together to shape the future of academic pediatrics. For more information, please visit aps1888.org, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Society for Pediatric Research
The Society for Pediatric Research (SPR) encourages and supports pediatric research endeavors by creating a network of diverse researchers to improve child health. Collaboration among SPR members creates meaningful progress for the future of children’s health. For more information, please visit www.societyforpediatricresearch.org, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contacts:
Lisa Thompson
Association Director
American Pediatric Society
(346) 980-9707

Jana Wells
Senior Association Director
Society for Pediatric Research
(346) 258-6218