James Lemons is more than a renowned neonatologist, researcher and professor. He's also humanitarian who advocates worldwide to help vulnerable women and children. Lemons, who just stepped down as Director of the Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine Division at the Department of Pediatrics for the Indiana University School of Medicine after 24 years of service, raised more than $3 million to build the Riley Mother Baby Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya.
"Jim has dedicated his life to helping women and children who are vulnerable and disadvantaged," said Ora Pescovitz, former President and CEO of Riley Hospital for Children. "He's been instrumental in building the neonatology program at Riley. It's one of the top five programs in the world on the basis of its cutting edge technology. He felt similarly compelled to care for the disadvantaged mothers and children in Kenya."
Because of a collaborative partnership between IU School of Medicine and the Moi University School of Medicine in Kenya, Lemons worked at the university's teaching hospital for three months in 1993. While there tending to patients, he also installed running water in the hospital's newborn nursery with materials he bought. Through the years, he has returned numerous times on medical missions and has mentored Kenyan students, faculty and physicians.
"The ripple effect of what happens at Riley extends around the world. I'm seeing we can make a difference, and I'm seeing the potential to truly enhance the world in many different ways," Lemons said.
"The Riley/Kenya Mother and Baby Hospital project is important to me because it's one of the few sustainable initiatives that was done for all of the right reasons," Lemons said. "Healthcare workers and birthing attendants will be trained here and the staff is so excited to have a beautiful place to work so it will keep dedicated faculty here and prevent brain drain. Our whole vision for maternal and child health in Kenya will hopefully transform Sub-Saharan Africa."
The three-story building with a 50-bed newborn intensive care unit will replace a very primitive building where women gave birth in a large open ward that was covered by a tin roof. Health care professionals there will dedicate themselves to taking care of a population in Africa that many refer to as, "the least, the last and the lost," Lemons said.
More than 12,000 women will give birth in this hospital annually, and the hospital will serve as the teaching hospital for nearly one-third of all doctors in Kenya.
"We want to elevate the esteem for women and children in the third world countries," Lemons said. "We're also hoping this will be a way to decrease AIDS. If you can identify a mother during pregnancy as to whether she's HIV positive, you can treat the mother around the time of delivery and reduce the chances of the baby getting HIV."
Over the last 30 years, Lemons has also taken care of women and children in Indiana. He has provided direct, critical care to thousands of critically ill newborns at Riley and spearheads the Riley NICU Reunion for former patients and parents every year.
"Their needs are just as great here. We take care of a great number of underserved families, babies and children. Riley has always accepted any child regardless of ability to pay. All people need to be cared for equally," Lemons said.
"Dr. Lemons embraces the Riley philosophy of caring not only for the sick children, but also for the families who love them," said D. Craig Brater, Dean of IU School of Medicine. "One of his accomplishments is establishing a Riley NICU family support program where parents who have had previous experience with their own children in the NICU work with hospital social workers to help families of current NICU patients."
He's working on expanding programs he's created so they can reach out to grandparents and other family members. "We want to evaluate how to nurture a strong extended family that goes beyond their stay at Riley and we want other hospitals to be able to copy what we've accomplished," Lemons said.
In addition, he has published more than 200 medical articles and helped set up NICUs at various hospitals across the state. He is recognized as a world authority in the field of perinatal amino acid protein metabolism, and he's conducted extensive research for the National Institutes of Health neonatal clinical trails.
"Simply put, Jim is the best of the best at virtually everything - clinician, teacher, researcher, advocate for children, advocate for the poor and the best of the best human being," said Richard Schreiner, MD, formerr Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at IU School of Medicine.
Resume James A. Lemons, MD (Resume)