Julie Riccio, M.D.

New chief of pediatric medicine is working to improve care given to the tiniest and most vulnerable newborns at Highland

By Chris Motola

RiccioQ: How long have you been working as chief of pediatric medicine at Highland Hospital?

A: I have for about a month.

Q: What are your duties?

A: I oversee mostly the newborn nursery at Highland and policies and procedures that apply to any child who comes into the hospital. But at Highland that mostly means newborn medicine, because we don’t necessarily have inpatient pediatrics except for newborns and infants that need special care. So, I oversee the administrative aspects, credentialing and physician management, with the medical director helping me with some of the HR aspects of that unit.

Q: What got you interested in the role?

A: I actually have an administrative role at Unity Hospital as well, so it started because both of the hospitals have what are known as Level 1 nurseries, so they take care of somewhat sick babies. And that’s in addition to the normal newborn care that they do. In my job and clinical role at Strong, I actually spend a lot of time taking care of babies that are a little bit ill, and I also overlapped with some of the newborn care as well. So, when the role opened up at Unity, I was a good fit because I was one of the neonatologists who did the less acute medicine and took care of healthy babies as well. That’s how I became interested in that administrative role at Unity, and then that kind of blossomed being a good fit for a similar role at Highland. It just seemed kind of logical.

Q: What kind of impact do you want to make at Highland?

A: I think it’s important to really hone in on newborn medicine and standardize it across the Rochester area, and just to continue to create best-practice medicine in some of the smaller hospitals. Given the neonatology background I have and some of the quality improvement initiatives we have at Strong, I want to bring them out to smaller community hospitals like Highland and really enhancing the care that newborns are getting and really working with the community.

Q: And your own medical background is pediatrics, correct?

A: I did a three-year pediatric residency in neonatology, so my background is really in newborns and sick newborns.

Q: What kind of care do newborns usually need?

A: Highland has the biggest delivery service in the Rochester area, and they do take care of many, many healthy babies. Really, for healthy newborns, it just making sure they have normal heart and lung functions, and the fingers and toes, making sure they’re feeding well. Watching for jaundice, making sure they transition to being outside their mother in an appropriate manner in terms of their breathing. So, most of the care we provide is making sure that transition is happening. That’s why they have us there as pediatricians, along with advanced practice providers to provide that need to newborns who do need that extra little bit of help. And, usually, with a little bit of help in terms of breathing, most newborns will turn the corner and be just fine in terms of birth. We do provide respiratory help for newborns who have a little trouble breathing. We can also provide fluids, antibiotics, phototherapy for jaundice.

Q: How do you divide your time between administration and practice?

A: A fair portion of my time is clinical. Fortunately or unfortunately, administration has taken a little bit of my time away from clinical.

Q: What qualities do you think make for a good medical director?

A: I think, obviously, someone well-versed in the medicine that’s happening and the needs within the hospital. That’s why at a hospital like Highland, where most of the pediatric population are newborns, a neonatologist has been in that role. Outside of that, I think a person who is easily approachable, who can implement changes with the group and be able to manage people as well.

Q: Do you practice at Highland?

A: My clinical practice is all through Strong and some time at Rochester General Hospital as well. The one clinical piece at Highland would be doing consultation to providers there. I act more in a consultant role there for providers in the unit.

Q: With child delivery, patients can afford to be a bit more discretionary about where they seek medical services. What does Highland Hospital offer above other options?
A: I think the care there is very family-centered. Their recent reconstruction of the special care nursery and labor and delivery unit is designed to help keep mothers and babies together. And that’s something that I think they do very well. I think the environment there is very warm and inviting, and they do a great job. I think the community knows that, and Highland has grown to accommodate that.

Q: How’s your first month been?

A: It’s been exciting. It’s been nice to see how different places do things. I’m kind of coming in at a time where things are in place. It’s not in a period of active change, so it’s a good time to meet people and assess where we’re going in the future. It’s been a nice transition, and I’m getting the lay of the land. Everyone’s very friendly. It’s a great environment.


Name: Julie Riccio, M.D.
Position: Chief of pediatric medicine at Highland Hospital
Hometown: Lyndhurst, Ohio
Education: SUNY Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse; residency in pediatrics at SUNY Syracuse Office of Graduate Medical Education; fellowship in neonatology at University of Rochester Medical Center
Awards: Excellence as a Teacher Award, residency, SUNY Upstate Medical University (2005 and 2006)
Affiliations: University of Rochester Medical System
Organizations: American Academy of Pediatrics
Family: Husband, Dustin and two school-aged boys
Hobbies: Tennis; jigsaw puzzles