Hand to Hold® to host National NICU Mental Health Conference to help improve the long-term outcomes of babies

September 19, 2023

Hand to Hold invites all NICU professionals and parents to attend the NICU Mental Health Conference during Prematurity Awareness Month

AUSTIN – Hand to Hold, a national nonprofit that provides early intervention mental health support for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and bereaved parents will host its National NICU Mental Health Conference November 1 – November 2. This two-day conference for NICU parents and professionals will take place virtually during Prematurity Awareness Month to allow for equitable access.

The NICU Mental Health Conference is the only conference bringing together NICU parents and NICU professionals to learn, discuss and inspire advocacy to improve the immediate and long-term mental health of NICU families. Continuing education credits will be offered for NICU professionals. Reckitt/Mead Johnson will serve as presenting sponsor of the conference.

“The mental health of NICU parents can have a profound impact on their baby’s long-term mental health and development,” said Kelli Kelley, Hand to Hold’s Founder and CEO. “The NICU Mental Health Conference serves to elevate the conversation about the need for improved mental health support for NICU parents and professionals to ensure better outcomes for babies and their families.”

Session topics at the conference include:

  • Power of Empathy
  • Health Equity
  • Self Care Strategies
  • Central Role of Family in the NICU
  • Impact of Trauma in Relationships
  • Grieving in the NICU
  • Support In and Out of the NICU
  • Burnout in Working Mothers
  • Dads’ Mental Health

Register for the NICU Mental Health Conference – early bird pricing for medical, corporate and academic professionals will run through October 10th, 2023. The conference is always 100% free for participating NICU parents.

Keynote speakers include:

Dr. Joseph Stern, MD is a neurosurgeon, author of Grief Connects Us: A Neurosurgeon’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and Compassion, and co-director of the Cone Health Brain Tumor Program, lost his sister to leukemia and through his journey, realized the need of integrating compassion and empathy into the medical field. He has since become committed to deepening and humanizing the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr. Veronica Gillispie-Bell, MD, MAS, FACOG is a board-certified OBGYN, senior site lead, section head and associate professor for Women’s Services, Ochsner Kenner in New Orleans. She also serves as Medical Director of the Louisiana Perinatal Quality Collaborative and Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review. She is a passionate and influential voice for reducing health disparities by focusing on pathways for change to eliminate the Black maternal health crisis.

Other featured speakers include:

Olivya Wilson, LCSW, was most recently the Trauma-Informed Parent Education Coordinator for the Greater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) and supports parents and caregivers in learning more effective strategies to build and strengthen positive healthy relationships with their children.
Sheehan Fisher, PhD, an Associate Professor at Northwestern University, who conducts research on mood disorders in mothers and fathers during the perinatal period to examine the effects of psychosocial stress on parent’s mood, parenting, and ultimately infant/child health outcomes, desiring to build health, equality, and strength in the family.

Jess Daigle, MD, NICU mom as well as a pediatrician, NICU hospitalist, and Founder of Mom & Me MD, an in-home/virtual care service designed for moms and their new babies as they transition home from the hospital – she is their cheerleader and support person and who is also a medical professional.
Raylene Phillips, MD, Pediatric Department Chair/Medical Director of Neonatal Services Loma Linda University Medical Center – Murrieta, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics/Neonatology at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. Her passion is to honor and nurture the earliest connections between babies and their parents.

Kelly Boyd, PhD, psychologist who specializes in women’s reproductive health and psychology. She works extensively with individuals, couples, families and groups experiencing various types of reproductive challenges and reproductive trauma. She is passionate about helping people grow emotionally in whatever obstacles they may be facing.

Jill Kottmeir, RN, is Director of Wellbeing and Bereavement Services at Northwest Community Healthcare and is certified in perinatal loss care. Her professional passion is perinatal bereavement.

Susan Landers, MD, author of So Many Babies: My Life Balancing a Busy Medical Career and Motherhood, is a retired neonatologist with 34 years of experience.She worked as an expert in breastfeeding medicine, and strove to normalize using donor human milk in the NICU.

The conference will also feature a presentation of the 2023 Hand to Hold NICU Hero Award, where a NICU professional and a NICU team will be recognized for their compassion and excellence in medical care by a NICU parent.

Register for the NICU Mental Health Conference


About Hand to Hold®:
Hand to Hold® is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) that is dedicated to providing personalized emotional support, education and community to parents who have had children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or the loss of a baby.  Hand to Hold is removing barriers for support by growing a hybrid model of in-person and virtual support in service to their mission. Support is provided in English or Spanish to parents at no cost to families and all support is designed with the emotional, physical and social needs of the NICU parent.  For more information, visit  Hand to Hold.org.