Leslie Parker, Ph.D., APRN

Professor of Nursing

College of Nursing

2023 Awardee

Leslie Parker is an internationally recognized scholar in neonatal nursing whose scientific work has impacted the care of infants globally. Both a nurse researcher and board-certified neonatal clinical practitioner, her work is specifically focused on improving the health of extremely vulnerable, preterm and critically ill infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Her dedication to her patients initially inspired her extensive body of research, as well as her passion to develop new innovations to improve the health of this population.

“I decided to become a nurse researcher after working in the NICU for about 20 years,” Parker said. “While working there, I found that there were so many unanswered questions while taking care of the neonatal population, so for me, the best way I knew how to discover new ways to provide the best care possible of these infants was to return for my Ph.D.”

Her extraordinary program of research has also transformed neonatal care standards. Results from a recently completed randomized controlled trial were published in the preeminent journal JAMA Pediatrics and have advanced the neonatal field’s understanding of routine gastric residual evaluation, a commonly used medical procedure in preterm infants. Since its publication, neonatal intensive care units around the globe have adapted their nutritional guidelines to eliminate this practice.

Over the last five years alone, Parker’s neonatal nutrition research has garnered over $4 million in grant support. Her research agenda can be characterized as interdisciplinary team science, aiming to bridge the gaps between nursing, medicine, microbiology and public health.

To Parker, who also recently assumed the role of interim associate dean for research in the College of Nursing, the opportunity to improve health and well-being during one of life’s most critical moments is a great responsibility — one she has remained devoted to over the course of her career.

“I am committed to translational science and improving health care practices and health outcomes for our tiniest patients — critically ill and preterm infants,” Parker said. “I hope to continue to generate new knowledge regarding nutritional care in order to improve the global health care of this vulnerable population.”