A photo of DonnaMaria E. Cortezzo.

Attending Neonatologist, Neonatology and Pulmonary Biology

Attending Palliative Care, Pain Management
Member, Perinatal Institute
Member, Palliative Care

Assistant Professor, UC Department of PediatricsUC Department of Anesthesiology


Board Certified

My Biography & Research


My interest in medicine is a life-long one. My family often reminds me that when I was in nursery school, I told everyone I wanted to help tiny, sick babies.

Babies are so resilient and so complicated. I enjoy the challenge of understanding how to care for them and how to truly make a difference in their families’ lives. I want to give them a chance to thrive, grow up and have a future with their families.

I take care of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Cincinnati Children’s. As a neonatologist and pediatric palliative care provider, I specialize in caring for the most critically ill babies and providing support to their families.

Whenever there is a baby or pregnancy with a complex or life-limiting diagnosis, I provide medical care and support to the baby and the entire family. In the Cincinnati Fetal Center, my work includes counseling women and families so that they understand the issues their baby may face and what the different care and treatment options we can provide will mean for their baby. In the NICU, I work closely with our entire team to manage and provide innovative treatments to babies with complex problems. When babies have surgeries or procedures, I provide pain and sedation assessment and management.

One of the most fulfilling parts of my job is when I provide neonatal/perinatal palliative care. I became interested in palliative care during my neonatal training. I help families as they navigate through an incredibly difficult and precious journey. To provide support to families and be involved in cherished moments with their baby is meaningful and rewarding.

Each baby and family I care for is unique. I tailor treatment options and support to each child and family. It is a privilege and an honor that families trust me with the care of their baby and let me in during some of the most difficult and vulnerable moments of their lives. Those interactions continue to shape me, and I am forever grateful for them.

During my career, I have helped to develop and grow perinatal palliative care programs. When a pregnancy is complicated by a life-limiting diagnosis, families need unique and caring support. I walk with the family and help them understand their baby's diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options. We work together to navigate their goals of care, focus on memory-making and create a birth plan that honors their wishes.

My research interests focus on neonatal/perinatal palliative care and neonatal pain and sedation assessment and management. I’m also interested in using simulation in education to teach and reinforce skills and procedures needed to provide care in the NICU. One of the most important skills is communication. I continually look for innovative approaches to effectively teach healthcare providers better communication skills for difficult conversations.

In my free time, I enjoy being outdoors. As the daughter of a farmer, I like spending time in nature and working with animals. I love animals of all kinds and help at animal rescues and sanctuaries. I am passionate about volunteering and donating to organizations that are important to me. I also enjoy working out as it helps me unwind and process things. Other hobbies include cooking, drawing, listening to music and going to concerts.

Clinical Interests

Neonatology; perinatal palliative care; neonatal palliative care; neonatal pain management; congenital anomalies

Research Interests

Neonatal pain management; neonatal palliative care; perinatal palliative care

Academic Affiliation

Assistant Professor, UC Department of PediatricsUC Department of Anesthesiology

Clinical Divisions

Neonatology, Perinatal, Hospice, Fetal Care, Newborn Intensive Care NICU

Research Divisions


Blog Posts

3 Common Misconceptions About Palliative Care

BlogRare and Complex Conditions

3 Common Misconceptions About Palliative Care

By DonnaMaria Cortezzo, MD10/17/2017

My Locations

My Education

MD: University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, CT, 2008.

Residency: Pediatrics, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, CT, 2011.

Fellowship: Neonatology, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Farmington, CT, 2014.

Fellowship: Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2015.

Certifications: Pediatrics, 2011; Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, 2016; Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 2015.

My Publications

Neonatal End-of-Life Symptom Management. Cortezzo, DE; Meyer, M. Frontiers in Pediatrics. 2020; 8.

Moral Distress in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: What Is It, Why It Happens, and How We Can Address It. Mills, M; Cortezzo, DE. Frontiers in Pediatrics. 2020; 8.

Perinatal Palliative Care Birth Planning as Advance Care Planning. Cortezzo, DE; Ellis, K; Schlegel, A. Frontiers in Pediatrics. 2020; 8.

Electronic Health Record–Embedded Decision Support Platform for Morphine Precision Dosing in Neonates. Vinks, AA; Punt, NC; Menke, F; Kirkendall, E; Butler, D; Duggan, TJ; Cortezzo, DE; Kiger, S; Dietrich, T; Spencer, P; et al. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2020; 107:186-194.

Birth Planning in Uncertain or Life-Limiting Fetal Diagnoses: Perspectives of Physicians and Parents. Cortezzo, DE; Bowers, K; Meyer, MC. Journal of Palliative Medicine. 2019; 22:1337-1345.

Two cases of atypical twinning: Phenotypically discordant monozygotic and conjoined twins. Barnes-Davis, ME; Cortezzo, DE. Clinical Case Reports. 2019; 7:920-925.

Palliative Care. Cortezzo, DE; Carter, BS. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn: Tenth Edition. : Elsevier; Elsevier; 2018.