Awards of Excellence


AAGF awards NICU Nurses in April and Pediatric Surgeons in July for their exceptional work in the field.

Emerita Rabe RN/BSN

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Emerita Rabe was nominated by Clariza Lopez, mother to gastroschisis baby Diego. “I met Emerita the second week Diego was in the NICU. She received me with a warm smile and a friendly gesture. During my visit I saw how amazing she treated Diego and how she talked to him and played with him so he wouldn’t cry when he was being given a small shower and when she would take his vitals. She always gave me advice on how to interact with my son, me being a first time mom. Even when she wasn’t Diego’s nurse, she would always drop by and ask how he was doing, and she always made sure to ask how I was doing and if I needed anything. Since my son has been in the NICU, I have closely observed all the nurses and realized that I also want to be a nurse to give my son a better life when he’s older.” more…

Bradley Epiche RN

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital

Memphis, Tennessee

Bradley Epiche was nominated by Myranda Milam, mother to gastroschisis baby Jaxn. “I’m a first time mother at 19 years old. My son Jaxn has a condition called Vanishing Gastroschisis and he is a short-gut baby. We had not been here at Le Bonheur very long when a certain nurse not only walked into our room but into our hearts. The first night we had Bradley Epiche as our nurse we knew instantly that we wanted to make sure we had him as much as we could, so he became our primary! There are not enough words I could write that could tell you how we feel about Bradley. He can make anyone laugh on their absolute worst day, as he has done to me. No matter how bad the outcome looks or the situation is, he remains very supportive and positive. He takes his job to the next level and deserves way more than what we can offer him.” more…

Marissa Rebello

Children’s Hospital of Atlanta Scottish Rite

Atlanta Georgia

Marissa Rebello was nominated by Brittany Dye, mother of gastroschisis child Jadon. “Marissa has took care of Jadon as one of his primaries since the beginning! She was the one that spoke up and out for his care when I wasn’t there, she also knew something was Wrong with him before any doctors did. She got him out of the annex (step down NICU) and back into regular NICU and that’s when the doctor told us Jadon looked great and we indeed knew he wasn’t. They told us to continue feeds so we did and he kept vomiting, Marissa noticed his color changing back to gray, and his soft spot sinking in. They very next day he was going to surgery and Marissa was there, and the one that wheeled him back. She answered all the questions that she could. Stood with me and walked me back, so I wasn’t alone.” more…

Lisa Black RN

CAMC Women’s and Children’s

Hurricane, West Virginia

Lisa Black was nominated by Michael and Shana Johnson, parents to gastroschisis child MaKenlee. “A NICU stay can never be easy. But with the help of a wonderful nurse, it can be a little easier to bare. We had Lisa Black who always went above and beyond. She was a primary nurse who just fell in love with MaKenlee & always treated her as her own. Even in the rare occasion she wasn’t her night nurse she would go and have the schedule changed. Not only because she loved having her but she knew it helped me be able to leave the hospital for a few hours to sleep and I knew my daughter was in the best hands. No matter what questions I had she always tried to explain every single thing to me or get me the answers I needed. Even now being out of the NICU a year later she still text and ask about her.” more…

Dario Fauza MD, PhD

Boston Children’s Hospital – Harvard Medical School 

fauzaBoston, Massachusetts

Earlier this year Boston Children’s Hospital ran an article on the research Dario Fauza MD, PhD, was doing on mesenchymal stem cells and gastroschisis repair. He has published two papers (one forthcoming) on Trans-Amniotic Stem Cell Therapy (TRASCET) and potential benefits for gastroschisis repair and treatment (please see citations below). As our community well knows, any efforts to improve outcomes for gastroschisis patients is critical for future patients and provides hope to many of those who have already and continue to endured the trials associated with gastroschisis. Avery’s Angels Gastroschisis Foundation is committed not only to servicing our patients and families, but actively promoting research on epidemiology and improving outcomes for gastroschisis. more…

Dr. John Kerner MD

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford

unnamed-12Palo Alto, California

Dr. Kerner was nominated by Analeise Guild, mother to a long term medically necessary gastroschisis child, Cali. Dr. Kerner is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He received his medical degree at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and did his fellowship at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Dr. Kerner has been with Cali since birth. We adopted Cali at the age of 1, so Dr. Kerner came into my life later then he came into Cali’s life.I always felt so comfortable with the care she was given and so happy to have such an amazing team with my daughter before she came to live with us. I nominated Dr. Kerner because from the second I met him, he was always so caring and personable. He got to know us as a family, not just Cali. He has taken the time to get to know all of my children, even bringing my boys hockey cards when they come to the visits. more…

Dr. Marcia Feldkamp

The University of Utah, School of Medicine

Marcia FeldkampSalt Lake City, Utah

Dr. Marcia Feldkamp was nominated by Meghan Hall, AAGF CEO and Founder. The foundation was connected to Dr. Feldkamp in 2010 via our founding members and the CDC. Dr. Feldkamp had been conducting research and surveillance on gastroschisis for several decades, and was eager to make the connection with the mission of Avery’s Angels. Since that time, Dr. Feldkamp has actively been involved in making sure the parent and patient perspective was inclusive in all discussions relating to epidemiological research on gastroschisis across the nation.  She continues to make sure the dissemination of relevant data and studies are accessible to patients and parents while championing the mission of epidemiological research into the risk factors, trends and potential environmental factors for gastroschisis. more…

Dr. Tyler Hartman

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Tyler HartmanLebanon, New Hampshire

Dr. Tyler Hartman was nominated by Christina Miller, grandmother to gastroschisis survivor, Eliana. “Dr.Tyler Hartman is a saint. He met my daughter and I when she was 24 weeks pregnant. We knew my granddaughter would be born with gastroschisis at 14 weeks. Dr. Hartman was so kind and made our meetings comfortable, he let us know that he would be there for Eliana when she was born and during her care afterwards. My daughter went in to labor four weeks early. It was a long night and my granddaughter was born the next morning with Dr. Hartman by our sides. He made sure we knew he was there and ready for the baby. Dr. Hartman spent many days and nights beside Eliana because she was so sick. She was only 4 lbs at birth and all of her intestines were exposed along with her liver and a Fallopian tube. more…

UNC Neonatologists of 2009

UNC Medical Center

UNC NICU 2009Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Avery’s Angels Gastroschisis Foundation’s own Meghan Hall nominated the neonatologists of 2009 that cared for her son, Avery John Rauen, during his short life. Specifically, the nomination recognizes the work of Dr. Sofia Aliaga MPH MD, Dr. Diane Warner MPH, MD, Dr. Karen Wood, MD, and Dr. Wayne Price, MD. “I would like to nominate the NICU team of 2009 who not only took care of our son Avery but also our family. The team of Dr. Aliaga, Dr. Warner, Dr. Price and Dr. Wood in addition to the amazing neonatal nursing staff and pediatric surgery team took care of our son and us in a way that assured us that our son was being left with family when we were not able to be in the unit. The enduring support of Dr. Aliaga and Dr. Warner to this day for our family, beyond Avery’s small life, has a lasting impact in our family. more…

Dr. Mark Puder

Boston Children’s Hospital

Dr. Mark PuderBoston, Massachusetts

Dr. Mark Puder is one of the country’s most outspoken and leading physicians on the development of best care practices for gastroschisis patients and long term care. Dr. Puder is known in the gastroschisis community as being the pediatric surgeon who is willing to go above the call of duty to make sure babies and children have access to life saving and life improving care, even if it means staying longer hours. For a physician who works at one of the United State’s most reputable hospitals with a booked clinical schedule, he is very quick to respond to any patient’s emerging needs and concerns from anywhere in the world. Dr. Puder has continued to be a strong ally and supporter of gastroschisis families and Avery’s Angels Gastroschisis Foundation for the past 5 years. more…

Dr. Edward Barksdale

Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital

Dr. Edward BarksdaleCleveland, Ohio

Dr. Edward Barksdale was nominated by Jessica Blevins, mother of Austin Blevins. “On August 21,2013 I was six months pregnant with my son who had been diagnosed with Gastroschisis at 21 weeks gestation. I was going to the hospital for the first time to meet the man that would be performing surgery on my son once he was born. I wasn’t sure what to expect and from all the doctors I had been seeing I was honestly unsure on who I’d be meeting. I walked into a room and was told Dr. Barksdale would be in shortly. I waited for a couple minutes and in came a clean cut man with a warm smile and soft voice. Something I have never seen on a top surgeon. He introduced himself and not only took the time to get to know me but he asked about my son. more…

Dr. James DeCou

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

Dr. James DeCouGrand Rapids, Michigan

Dr. James DeCou was nominated by Phebe Hovingh, mother of Samson Hovingh. “Dr. DeCou received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering (graduating with distinction) from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and then received his medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School. His postgraduate training included an Internship and Residency in General Surgery at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover/Lebanon, New Hampshire. Dr. DeCou also completed two Fellowships, one in Pediatric Surgery at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a second in Pediatric Surgical Oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. more…

Dr. Thomas Rouse

Riley Hospital for Children at IU

Dr Thomas RouseIndianapolis, Indiana

Dr. Thomas Rouse was nominated by Lyndsey Carroll, mother of Emmett Leonard. “My son Emmett was delivered at IU Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 4th, 2010. Once he was born he was quickly taken through the tunnel into Riley Children’s Hospital where he had some of the most amazing doctors and nurses possible, such as Dr. Thomas Rouse. Not only was Emmett seen by Dr. Rouse as an infant, but Emmett still sees him to this day. One of the biggest reasons why I love Dr. Rouse, is because he listens. He is attentive to our needs as parents, as well as, Emmett’s needs as his patient. He never has issues explaining medical terminology to me, or what a specific procedure might require.  more...

Dr. Bonnie Beaver

Cabell Huntington Hospital

Dr Bonnie BeaverHuntington, West Virginia

Dr. Bonnie Beaver was nominated for the Avery Award of Excellence by Jordan Bennett for the care of her daughter, Taylor, during her stay in the NICU. “I can never thank Dr. Beaver enough for what she did for our daughter and our family. When we first discovered Taylor was going to be born with Gastroschisis, we were the most scared I think anyone in our family had ever been. No one in our area had been born with this before and we had no idea what to expect. The OB I originally went to had called me on the phone to deliver this news. He told me to, “Google it.” At that time there was no Avery’s Angels. I made the mistake of Googling it. We waited two weeks after that to meet Dr. Beaver. more…

Dr. Thomas Renard

Medical City Children’s Hospital

Dr Thomas RenardDallas, Texas

Dr. Thomas Renard was nominated by Brianna Bagwell for the care of her son, Zeke, during his stay in the NICU. “I found out about my son’s gastroschisis at 16 weeks when I had his gender scan. I was immediately referred to 2 specialist and to Dr. Renard. Dr. Renard answered all the questions I ever had for him and acted like he genuinely cared about my son’s outcome. I had 2 in office visits with him before my son was born. Each visit we had wit him was wonderful. He never rushed us or tried to hurry us off so he could get to his next appointment. He took all the time we needed to make sure any concerns or fears we had were discussed. He explained everything in a very understanding way and not in just medical talk. more…

Dr. Lesli Taylor

Niswonger Children’s Hospital

Dr Leslie TaylorJohnson City, Tennessee

Dr. Lesli Taylor was nominated for her award by Sarah Parker, whose son Rowan was born with gastroschisis and spent the first 10 months of his life at Niswonger Children’s Hospital. Right after Rowan was born, Taylor told the family she had a plan save Rowan, despite the serious complications, but it would take a long time. “She was there nights, weekends and holidays, in addition to doing her other duties,” said Scott Robertson of The Business Journal as the award was handed out. “With Dr. Taylor overseeing his care, along with the staff at Niswonger, Rowan has survived and exceeded almost everyone’s expectations. Now nearly 5 years old, he lives a very normal life.” more…

Dr. Mustafa Kabeer

UCI Medical Center

Dr Mustafa KabeerOrange, California

Dr. Mustafa Kabeer was nominated by Brittney Gossett, mother of gastroschisis survivor, Irelynn. “When you find out something is wrong with your child there is nothing that can make it better, or at least that’s how you feel in all the moments you watch them struggle. The people around you help, but I have never found more comfort until I met my daughter’s surgeon, Dr. Mustafa Kabeer. Dr. Kabeer saved my daughters life with his quick decision making and was able to help my husband and I find peace in the horrible situation we were dealt dealing with a complicated case of gastroschisis. more…

Dr. Mary Brandt

Texas Children’s Hospital

Dr Mary BrandtHouston, Texas

Dr. Mary Brandt was nominated for an Award of Excellence by Brittany Isham. “Dr. Brandt works at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston where Savana was born on December 27, 2012. Immediately following delivery, Savana was taken to the NICU where my mother accompanied her. Savana had a detachment of her umbilical cord with some intestine as well as her stomach outside of her abdomen. Dr. Brandt was waiting at the bedside when the NICU staff arrived with Savana. My mother remained by Savana’s side the entire time. more…

Melanie Maruish

CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital 

Melanie MaruishCharleston, West Virginia

Melanie Maruish was nominated by Amanda Beane for the care of Josiah during his NICU stay. “On July 18th 2011 we had a son born with gastroschisis, his name was Josiah. We had many fantastic nicu nurses, but one definitely stood out among the rest. Melanie Mariush made such a huge difference during his nicu stay. She would go above and beyond for him time and time again. She worked nights and was always spoiling our little guy, it was so comforting to leave the hospital at night knowing he was taken care of. Melanie also helped us communicate with the doctors and made sure all of our concerns were addressed.” more…

Entire NICU Staff

Niswonger Children’s Hospital

NiswongerJohnson City, Tennessee

The entire NICU staff at Niswonger Children’s Hospital was nominated by Kim Arnold for the care of Tripp Mutter-Fields during his stay in the NICU. “Our family has tried to narrow it down to just one nurse – we have debated, disagreed, I guess each of us have our favorite. We are emotionally indebted to these amazing Nurses at Niswonger Children’s Hospital and will be forever grateful for the love, compassion and attention they have given our precious Tripp. Tripp has been in the NICU since birth, December 6, 2013, waiting on a bowel transplant from the 98% of small intestines that were removed 5 hours after birth. Tripp has had infections, good days and some really bad days and these Nurses always greet him and us with a heartwarming smile.” more…

Kelley Harrison

Wolfson Children’s Hospital

KelleyJacksonville, Florida

Kelley Harrison was nominated by Amber Mallard for the care of Aleyece during her stay in the NICU. “Nurse Kelley Harrison is not only amazing at what she does, but she has a special connection to Gastroschisis babies in general. She has a heart of gold and was the “NICU Mom” for Aleyece for over a month. She went above and beyond her duties in making sure Aleyece was happy and healthy and in the process made sure we were ok as well. She always listened to us about our concerns and made sure we were able to be involved with everything we possibly could be. She was always very honest about everything and let us know that having a baby with Gastroschisis is a rollercoaster and to be prepared for anything that comes our way.” more…

Tanya Mattern

Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center

Tanya MatternDearborn, Michigan

Tanya Mattern was nominated by Amanda Ross for the care of Eric Harris during his stay in the NICU. “Every doctor, nurse, surgeon and hospital staff member who took part in my sons recovery will also have a special place in my heart, but throughout Eric’s NICU stay one stood out to us. She cared for each baby like they were her own. Every day at around 3pm we would say out loud, “I hope Tanya is his nurse today.” Even on the days she wasn’t she would stop by his room to check in with us and find out the progress he had made that day. On the good days she was happy, and on the bad she felt our pain with us. She had a way of putting us at ease, especially when it came time to leave him at night.” more…

Danielle Beckwith

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital 

Danielle BeckwithCleveland, Ohio

Danielle Beckwith was nominated by Jessica Blevins  for the care of Austin during his 4 1/2 month stay in the NICU. “Austin was born November 11,2013 with Gastroschisis and a Coarctation of the Aorta. He was in the NICU the first four in a half months of his life until he got moved to a GI floor. During his NICU stay his primary nurse Danielle Beckwith was one of the most positive, thoughtful and caring nurses he had taking care of him. She never gave up on him and always stayed positive and encouraged and helped me to become comfortable with him and included me with his hands on care. He had got deathly ill at one point and not once did she ever think he wouldn’t make it.” more…

Michelle Whanger

CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital

Michelle WhangerCharleston, West Virginia

Michelle Whanger was nominated by Lacey Harvey for the care of Ryder during his stay in the NICU. “My son was born on February 13,2014 at 37 weeks by c-section. My husband and I knew since I was 14 weeks pregnant that our little bundle of joy was going to be a gastro baby. Even though you can’t plan for news like that, we stayed strong and positive the whole time. That’s why I believe Michelle Whanger should be nominated because without her I feel my son would still be there. She would always call me unlike the others and answer everything I ever needed she was the one who talked the doctor into letting him try feedings.” more…

Geraldine Ghiz

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital

Nashville, Tennessee

Geraldine Ghiz was nominated by Chloa Turpin for the care of Atticus during his stay in the NICU. “There are no words that could ever convey how fortunate we are to have met Geraldine (Gerry) Ghiz. My husband and I were alone with our son in a state without any friends or family near. We practically lived in the hospital for six months, four of which were spent in the NICU. During this time, we met Gerry and not only was our NICU experience greatly impacted, but our lives were enriched. We felt very alone being so far away from everyone that we know. We were at our weakest when we met Gerry. She quickly became a part of our family.” more…