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September 12, 2022
By Joshua Sparrow, MD
Heidi Als, PhD, one of Dr. T. Berry Brazelton’s first protégés, passed away on Thursday, August 18. Like Berry, she was a brilliant observer, extraordinarily sensitive, and always looked for strengths where others saw deficits and hope where others saw despair. After studying newborn behavior with Berry and mastering his Newborn Behavioral Assessment Scale in the 1970s, she adapted it, with his support, for infants born prematurely, which led to the Assessment of Premature Infant Behavior (APIB), and later to her international program, the NIDCAP, to transform neonatal intensive unit care around the world.
Berry and Heidi and I would often have lunch together, and she was as generous as Berry with her wisdom, ideas, and passion, and they remained deeply devoted to each other throughout their lives. I am so grateful for all she has taught me and so many. (She wrote about her work in Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. Berry Brazelton.)
The day before she died, I saw an old family friend for the first time in years. His twins were born just a few days into viability, and he still vividly remembers the highly technically competent and emotionally attuned care of the neonatologist and NICU staff — trained by Heidi, of course, and carrying on her work, in Brest, France. I saw the now 8-year-old twins that day too — and they’re magnificent.
Like Berry, Heidi changed the world, and babies and families — and those who care for them — around the world will always be grateful and remember.
Read a remembrance of Heidi and share your own on the Newborn Behavior International website.