Dr. Sheldon B. Korones founded the Regional One Health neonatal intensive care unit in 1968 to give every baby a chance at quality care and a healthy life.

As the NICU team celebrated the center’s 50th anniversary, families returned to reflect on the exceptional care their babies received and the compassionate support they were shown.

Thanks to support from the Regional One Health Foundation, the NICU continues to advance medical treatment through innovation, training and technology, ensuring that fragile infants receive the best care available.

Fifty years ago, when a baby was born too early in Memphis, the odds of survival were based heavily on his or her zip code. The city’s infant mortality rate was alarmingly high, especially in its poorer neighborhoods.

It took a man on a mission to change that for the better.

Families from all over the Mid-South gathered at Regional One Health to celebrate as our NICU marked 50 years of service to the community. Founded by Dr. Sheldon B. Korones, the facility continues his commitment to making sure every baby has a chance at a healthy life.

Dr. Sheldon B. Korones believed no baby should suffer or die simply because their family could not afford quality health care. In 1968, appalled by the disparity in care for the city’s rich and poor, he gave up a lucrative private practice to open a NICU at Memphis’ public hospital.

The legacy he built through countless hours of personal effort and sheer force of will continues at the facility that now bears his name, Regional One Health’s Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center. And it is a legacy that is felt in homes throughout the Mid-South.

It is there every time Amanda Bass watches son Owen run around like the healthy toddler he is, in every hug Angela Sims gives daughter Nori Grace, in every family dinner the Actons sit down to together, in thousands of Mid-South families that are complete thanks to expert NICU care.

Many of those families joined Regional One Health last year at an event to celebrate the newborn center’s half-century mark.

Now under the leadership of Medical Director Ajay Tatati, MD, it has treated over 45,000 premature and critically-ill babies using the revolutionary interdisciplinary approach Dr. Korones spearheaded 50 years ago when neonatology was still a fledgling medical specialty.

Dr. Sheldon B. Korones left a lucrative private practice to found the NICU, all based on his belief that socioeconomic status should not determine a baby’s ability to access quality health care.

Expert doctors and nurses are joined by specially trained social workers to provide medical care and help families cope with challenges of caring for a premature or critically-ill infant.

For the Bass family, the anniversary was a chance to celebrate 18-monthold Owen with the men and women who saved his life. “We thanked them and we hugged them and told them how much we appreciated their love and care for our child when we couldn’t do it,” Amanda said.

Amanda was hospitalized at Regional One Health during her entire high-risk pregnancy and was in intensive care after giving birth, and she knows it was harrowing for her husband. But doctors and nurses walked at his side every step of the way: “It is one of the hardest yet one of the most supported and loved journeys we have been through,” she said.

Angela Sims marked the 50th while watching Nori Grace have a butterfly painted on her face.

Angela admitted she at first had a hard time visiting Nori Grace in the NICU. She was terrified by her daughter’s tiny size and all the machines she was connected to.

The Bass family are among those who joined the NICU anniversary celebration. “It is one of the hardest yet one of the most supported and loved journeys we have been through,” Amanda Bass said.

But that fear eased its grip, nudged aside by support from doctors and nurses. “You all took away the nervousness that I had,” Angela said. “You made me feel so supported during that difficult time in my life.”

The Acton family also spoke of support as they joined the celebration.

Cameron Acton wasn’t your typical NICU baby. Born 10 days late, he was bigger than his fellow patients but no less vulnerable.

After a healthy pregnancy, Travis and Andrea Acton had felt ready to welcome their third child. “We thought as experienced parents, that we had everything – that we were prepared,” Travis said. “But things changed so fast.”

Cameron was born by emergency C-section, and doctors and nurses rushed to save both mom and baby. “For my husband, he had to see Cameron come out not responsive and see what I was going through and the panic everyone was under,” Andrea said.

But just half a year later, “We have our child here and I have my wife here thanks to Regional One Health; thanks to the newborn center. It’s special to me,” Travis said.

Just as it is to more and more Mid-South families every day.

Thanks to the support from our caring donors, the team at the newborn center continues to advance medical treatment through innovation, new technology, training, and compassion, giving life to fragile infants and to Dr. Korones’ legacy of ensuring every child is given a fighting chance.

To support our NICU team as they continue to give our tiniest patients their best chance at a healthy life, visit regionalonehealth.org/foundation.