A photo of Kera M. McNelis.

Kera M. McNelis, MD, MS

  • Attending Neonatologist, Neonatology and Pulmonary Biology
  • Assistant Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
  • UC College of Medicine



I have wanted to become a neonatologist since I was 9 years old and first read about the specialty. I thought saving the lives of fragile, premature infants sounded like the best job in the world.

I developed an interest in neonatal nutrition and growth research as a medical student. Nutrition is a type of care we provide daily to every patient in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and it has a critical impact on long-term outcomes.

In fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, I refined my research focus to concentrate on healthy neonatal body composition as an important measure of growth. In 2016, I received the Reginald Tsang Award for Outstanding First-Year Fellow from the Cincinnati Children’s Division of Neonatology.

Overall, my research aims to fill gaps in our understanding of promoting lean body mass attainment in special neonatal populations. These include premature infants, those with bronchopulmonary dysplasia and those requiring intestinal rehabilitation. I collaborate with researchers from other NICUs to examine how different nutritional protocols lead to different body composition outcomes.

I’m also interested in using evidence-based medicine to strengthen newborn care in lower resource and global health settings. I first started global health work as a pediatric resident at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, during a clinical rotation in Belize. During my residency, I also received a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Humanism Foundation to transform the program’s global health curriculum to have a humanism focus.

From 2018 to 2019, I served as a technical advisor to the American Academy of Pediatrics for a United States Agency for International Development-funded project to improve essential newborn care in the Caribbean in the context of the Zika pandemic. I provided direct clinical training and quality improvement coaching to nurses, midwives and physicians across all service delivery points, from birth to three years, in four countries.

Overall, my academic interests are neonatal nutritional and growth assessment, clinical studies of nutritional interventions to promote healthy neonatal body composition, and use of evidence-based medicine to strengthen newborn care in lower resource and global health settings.


Enhancing Interpretation of One-Time Body Composition Measurement at Near-Term Gestation in Preterm Infants: An Exploratory Study. Viswanathan, S; McNelis, K; Alja'nini, Z; Merlino, S; Collin, M; Groh-Wargo, S. American Journal of Perinatology. 2022.

Single Center Experience on Growth in Infants Born with End Stage Kidney Disease. Slagle, CL; Riddle, SL; McNelis, K; Claes, D. Journal of Renal Nutrition. 2022.

Childhood obesity and adverse cardiometabolic risk in large for gestational age infants and potential early preventive strategies: a narrative review. Viswanathan, S; McNelis, K; Makker, K; Calhoun, D; Woo, JG; Balagopal, B. Pediatric Research. 2022; 92:653-661.

Care of the Premature and Ill Neonate. Fu, TT; McNelis, K; Smith, C; Kim, JH. In: Goday PS; Walia CS, Ed. Pediatric Nutrition for Dietitians. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2022.

Roadmap to Success: Interactive Timeline With Resources for Fellowship Scholarly Activity. Koo, J; McNelis, K; Mukthapuram, S; Rao, K; Caruso, CG; Rent, S. Journal of graduate medical education. 2022; 14:338-340.

Body Composition of Infants With Congenital Gastroschisis. McNelis, K; Poindexter, A; Goddard, G; Riddle, S; Wessel, J; Helmrath, M. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2022; 74:e35-e38.

Quality Improvement Efforts Reduce Incidence of Surgical Necrotizing Enterocolitis and Related Deaths. Goddard, GR; McNelis, K; Poindexter, A; Jenkins, T; Wessel, J; Nathan, AT; Helmrath, MA; Poindexter, B. American Journal of Perinatology. 2021; 38:1386-1392.

Effect of parenteral nutrition duration on patterns of growth and body composition in very low-birth-weight premature infants. Alja'nini, Z; Merlino-Barr, S; Brumfiel, A; McNelis, K; Viswanathan, S; Collin, M; Groh-Wargo, S. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. 2021; 45:1673-1682.

Hepatic Steatosis in Infancy: The Beginning of Pediatric Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?. McNelis, K; Yodoshi, T; Divanovic, S; Gandhi, C; Kim, JH; Anton, CG; Trout, AT; Mouzaki, M. 2021; 2.

Infant body composition assessment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) using air displacement plethysmography: Strategies for implementation into clinical workflow. Alja'nini, Z; McNelis, KM; Viswanathan, S; Goddard, GR; Merlino-Barr, S; Collin, M; Groh-Wargo, S. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN. 2021; 43:212-222.

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