Dr. Seetha Shankaran joined Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Hutzel Women’s Hospital in 1975 when she became a faculty member at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She served as the Chief of the Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Director of the Regional Neonatal Programs for the Detroit Medical Center from 1990 to 2016. Dr. Shankaran’s career in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine has been devoted to performing multicenter randomized controlled trials (RCT) and longitudinal prospective studies of high-risk infants from childhood to adolescence. Her research focus is understanding factors associated with the etiology, risk, management and the prevention of brain injury.
She was principal Investigator at the Wayne State University site of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network (NICHD NRN) and principal investigator of the first randomized controlled trial performed examining whole-body hypothermia as neuroprotection for neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. The trial results were published in 2005 in the New England Journal of Medicine. This therapy of cooling for 72 hours at 33.5C has become the standard of care throughout the world. She evaluated the 6-7-year outcome of trial participants (also published in NEJM in 2012). Dr Shankaran has described the MRI pattern of brain injury that correlates with outcome. Her most recent contribution as PI of the Neonatal Research Network was performing the RCT evaluating optimizing cooling strategies for moderate or severe HIE.
The results noted increased mortality with longer or deeper cooling and were published in published JAMA (2014). The primary outcome of the study demonstrating lack of efficacy of either longer or deeper cooling at 18 months of age was published in JAMA in July 2017. A photograph of one of the infants who underwent whole-body cooling and Dr. Shankaran is on the NICHD Director’s Hallway as the most significant NICHD Neonatal Network contribution in 25 years.