Dr. Katherine “Kitty” Esterly, known as the “Mother of Delaware Neonatology,” died on December 9.
Dr. Esterly was a pioneer in the field and has arguably done more for the health of women and children than anyone in the First State. Her career at Christiana Care spanned five decades, from her residency at then Delaware Hospital that began in 1952 to her retirement in 2007. She served as chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Christiana Care from 1994 to 2007. She was a friend, mentor, leader and trusted colleague, and an inspiration to all who knew her.
Christiana Care owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Dr. Esterly for her endless contributions to building the Department and serving the children of Delaware. She touched many lives both inside and outside of the hospital. She has led the way for many years and her lessons will continue to be with us for many more years.
Dr. Esterly was also regarded as Delaware’s “infant health hero” for her extensive work in pursuing needed neonatology procedures to protect infants. She was a driving force in promoting the need for a neonatal intensive care unit at Christiana Hospital to offer the highest level of non-surgical care to the most critically ill newborns. She developed the neonatal transport team, the neonatal nurse-practitioners program and the Mother’s Milk Bank.
As Delaware’s first neonatologist, Dr. Esterly served her tiniest patients and their families with compassion and expertise. Following her graduation from Temple University Medical School in 1951 she was a central part of the Christiana Care family. Thanks to her tireless efforts, countless families have benefitted from her foresight, as well as the heart and soul Dr. Esterly poured into this essential program.
Dr. Esterly is the recipient of numerous awards, including the University of Delaware’s Medal of Distinction, the State of Delaware’s Health Delaware Hero, the Delaware Public Health Association’s Medal of Honor and the Delaware Academy of Medicine’s President’s Award. The academy bestowed the additional honor of naming an annual conference on childhood development in her name.
She was an active voice on behalf of women, infants and children, serving on boards of several organizations, among them the Delaware Healthy Mothers and Infants Consortium, the Delaware Perinatal Board, the Delaware Curative Workshop, St. Michael’s School and Nursery, the Council for Children with Disabilities and the Ronald McDonald House.