UNC Health Neonatal Physical Therapy Fellowship

Childlife OT

UNC Hospital’s Neonatal Physical Therapy Fellowship is dedicated to supporting UNC Health’s mission to improve the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians and others whom we serve. Graduated fellows, equipped with a broad understanding of the complexities and challenges faced by neonatal patients and families, will have the experience and skill necessary to deliver efficient and effective evidence based care to improve the health and wellbeing of the newborn or infant requiring intensive care. Aligning with UNC Health’s vision to be the nation’s leading public academic health care system, this fellowship will provide the academic and clinical education necessary to graduate experts in the practice of neonatal physical therapy who excel in leading clinical teams, teaching, developing other professionals and contributing to research. Recognizing the advanced knowledge and experience needed in Neonatal Physical Therapy, program faculty and fellows seek to share their knowledge and skills widely to provide compassionate care and improve developmental and health outcomes for this vulnerable patient population.

Fellowship Program Mission

UNC Hospital’s Neonatal Physical Therapy Fellowship is dedicated to supporting UNC Health’s mission to improve the health and wellbeing of North Carolinians and others whom we serve. Graduated fellows, equipped with a broad understanding of the complexities and challenges faced by neonatal patients and families, will have the experience and skill necessary to deliver efficient and effective evidence based care to improve the health and wellbeing of the newborn or infant requiring intensive care.

Fellowship Program Philosophy

The multidisciplinary faculty of the program represent varied areas of expertise and are committed to developing fellows who are recognized leaders within the field of neonatal physical therapy. Fellows will develop excellence in examination, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, teaching and the integration of best evidence into the patient care they provide within Neonatology.

Fellows who successfully complete the program will be prepared for independent clinical practice in high-risk infant settings.


You will learn from mentors who are experts in neonatal therapy with a variety of specialty certifications and training. During weekly mentored time, the fellow evaluates and treats patients with a mentor. Individualized instruction and feedback is provided during each mentored session. The fellow’s mentor rotates regularly to provide a variety of perspectives and expertise across the neonatal program.


Kristel MaesKristel Maes, PT, DPT, Dip MDT, Program Director

Undergraduate school: KULeuven Belgium

Graduate school: KULeuven Belgium and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Professional interest: My clinical interest is spine. In my current position as Administrator of our post-graduate programs I have a passion for education and preparing the future generation of therapists.

Why I serve as a mentor: Research has shown that having a professional mentor is beneficial to advancing your career. From personal experience, I value the benefit of surrounding myself with others who can give me a different perspective on a patient case, problem or project. By serving as a mentor I hope to pass on my knowledge and support a resident’s professional growth.

Dana McCartyDana McCarty, PT, DPT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatrics, Program Coordinator

Undergraduate school: Columbia College

Graduate school: University of South Carolina

Professional interest: Neonatal physical therapy, infant-parent interaction and pediatric PT education.

Why I serve as a mentor: As a graduate of a pediatric PT residency program, I understand the need for mentoring guidance, especially in the first few years of clinical practice in pediatrics. I am grateful for all that my expert mentors have taught and continue to teach me. My commitment to mentoring the next generation of PTs is also born out of a great need to develop specialist and sub-specialist pediatric and neonatal PTs.

Kerry BlazekKerry Blazek, PT, DPT, CNT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatrics

Undergraduate school: Binghamton University

Graduate school: Duke University

Professional interest: Neonatal Therapy, Pediatrics and Clinical Education.

Why I serve as a mentor: Mentoring is a two way street. When you mentor others, you gain critical skills to improve as a leader. It reinforces your knowledge and helps keep you up to date on current practices and resources. Also, by helping train others in this specialty area of practice, we can serve many more patients and families. Mentoring can be equally as beneficial as it is fulfilling.

Nicollette DeLaineNicollette DeLaine PT

Graduate school: Winston Salem State University

Professional interest: NICU, Cardiac, and Diversity in Healthcare/PT.

Why I serve as a mentor: To support goal and career development, as well as inspire growth and knowledge within the NICU. Mentoring also re-energizes my own learning and passion within my practice.

Kristen Montgomery, MS, PT

kristen MontgomeryUndergraduate school: Boston University, Boston MA

Graduate school: Boston University, Boston MA

Professional interest: Pediatric acute care; critical care of the pediatric patient throughout the ages from neonates to teenagers.

Why I serve as a mentor:Being a mentor allows me to share my experience and knowledge with the incoming generation of professionals while also ensuring I remain on top of the current research as our care for pediatric patients evolves over time. I see it as an exchange of knowledge between professionals to improve the services we provide. Ultimately, the collaboration between mentor and fellow will lead to a higher quality of care and improved outcomes for our patients.

Lauren Quinn OTD, OTR/L, CNT

Lauren Quinn

Undergraduate school: Western Michigan University

Graduate school: University of St. Augustine

Professional interest: Years of experience and mentorship has allowed me to specialize in infant development, specifically within the NICU environment. During my time at UNC, I have facilitated the growth of UNC's neonatal therapy program and participated in NICU based research, both of which have propelled a passion that drives me each day to better care for preterm and critically ill infants and their families.

Why I serve as a mentor: I serve as a mentor to elevate the knowledge of clinicians dedicated to neonatal therapy practice while expanding my own clinical competence and skill. As an advanced practice area, the NICU requires extended mentorship and support, beyond years of schooling. Supporting the learning of up and coming clinicians with a drive to serve the NICU population is essential to the advancement of neonatal therapy practice. The NICU PT fellowship fosters advance practice learning in a supportive environment, I consider myself fortunate to be a part of the growth that occurs within this program.

Kim SellingerKim Sellinger, MS, CCC-SLP

Graduate school: University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Professional interest: I currently practice as an acute care pediatric speech/language pathologist with a primary focus on feeding and swallowing disorders. While I treat patients in all areas of the hospital, much of my caseload is in the NICU. I am particularly interested in pre-feeding interventions to improve transitions to oral feeding, supporting overall development in NICU populations and assessment of long term outcomes.

Why I serve as a mentor: I became a mentor for this fellowship to promote increased professional training to improve developmental outcomes of NICU patients. I lead the feeding modules as part of a well-rounded experience for our PT NICU fellows. I have also learned how to better support our patients through this interdisciplinary collaboration.

Mae Thomas, PT, DPT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatrics

Mae ThomasUndergraduate school: Elon University

Graduate school: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Professional interest: Pediatric physical therapy in the outpatient setting, pediatric development, Spina Bifida, orthotics, special infant care follow-up.

Why I serve as a mentor: I love watching the fellows grow in their understanding of pediatric physical therapy. I enjoy collaborating with fellows and the other mentors to challenge my own knowledge base and to collectively grow the field of pediatric physical therapy.

Meet Our Fellows

Kristen Dragotta2021-22: Kristen Dragotta, PT, DPT, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatrics

Undergraduate school: University of Connecticut

Graduate school: Duke University

Professional interest: I have always had an interest in working with the pediatric population since I started PT school. After completing a residency program that included NICU and Early Intervention experience, I've grown a passion for working with newborns and NICU graduates.

Why I chose to do a residency/fellowship program at UNC: I chose UNC to pursue fellowship training because of the diverse experiences that are offered. I am very interested in teaching and research, so I knew that I wanted to be in a university healthcare system that is also a leader in research. Additionally, the mentorship team is incredibly knowledgeable and during my interview everyone made me feel at ease.

What I like about Chapel Hill, NC: I really enjoy walking around campus, especially eating at restaurants on Franklin Street! The area is really accessible to various surrounding cities including Durham and Raleigh - there is always something to do!

2020-21: Erika Clary, PT, DPT, MS, Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Pediatrics

Erika ClaryUndergraduate school
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Graduate school
University of Delaware

Professional interest
I am a board certified pediatric clinical specialist with an interest in caring for our little patients and their families. I am passionate about neonatal therapy and the family-centered care we provide in the NICU. Outside of clinical time, I enjoy working on quality improvement initiatives, research projects, and educational initiatives. I am an APTA Level I credentialed clinical instructor and work with DPT students in both didactic and clinical settings.

Why I chose to do a fellowship program at UNC
UNC's neonatal physical therapy fellowship is only the 4th accredited program of its kind in the country, so it provides a unique opportunity to learn from leaders within the rapidly developing field of neonatal therapy. The nature of UNC's Newborn Critical Care Center as well as the structure of the fellowship provide a broad exposure to the care of all neonates from birth (even as little as 22 weeks!) through discharge. It also provides great clinical experience working with infants who have complex medical needs, both within the NCCC and beyond into complex infant follow up, early intervention and outpatient settings. For me, UNC's neonatal fellowship was an incredible opportunity to gain valuable clinical and didactic experience in neonatal therapy that I couldn't find elsewhere.

What I like about Chapel Hill, NC
Chapel Hill has a special place in my heart! My husband and I met attending UNC undergrad together and have loved returning to Chapel Hill. Although things have looked a bit different during COVID, we love attending UNC games and being close enough to explore both Raleigh and Durham.


The program’s curriculum is designed in modules that address each area of the Description of Fellowship Practice. These areas include, but are not limited to: Medical Issues and Interventions in the NICU, Embryologic and Fetal Development, Preterm Infant Development, Full-term Infant Development, Early Intervention and Follow-Up, Introduction to Infant Feeding, Environment of Care, Evidence-Based Practice in Neonatology, Meeting and Assessing the Family, Scientific Inquiry, Administration, Teaching and Learning, and Intervention-Based Modules. Didactic work complements clinical instruction in a concurrent fashion and is administered through a combination of independent study and face-to-face instruction. Written assignments, written examinations, live patient examinations and self-assessments provide the fellow with regular benchmarks to ensure their learning progresses throughout the duration of the program.


The core components of the fellowship program include: neonatal clinical practice, mentored clinical practice, didactic activities, written patient case reports, research, teaching and professional community service. Fellows must successfully complete each didactic module, two live patient exams, and two written exams and complete a research project.

Fellow Schedule

Fellows will practice at UNC Children’s Hospital for 30 hours per week. The fellow will also have mentored clinical work and didactic learning activities each week. Given the scope of fellow learning opportunities, fellows should expect to spend 50-60 hours per week completing program activities. Some holiday, weekend, and evening coverage is expected.

Mentored Time: This is clinical learning time in which a mentor and fellow are seeing patients together. The fellow is usually leading the patient care with guidance from the mentor and pre/post-care discussions.

Didactic Time: This is academic learning time completed by the fellow, which includes self-study modules (readings and evidence analysis), mentor/fellow discussions, and psychomotor learning activities. Module mentors plan, administer and evaluate didactic learning activities.

Other Activities: Fellows are required to develop, write and present patient case reports based on patients seen during clinical work. This time also includes activities such as shadowing medical professionals or serving as an assistant in the UNC Chapel Hill DPT program. The fellows will also participate in community service activities such as attending developmental fairs and providing pro bono consultation.

Salary, Tuition and Benefits

Fellows are full-time employees (with competitive salary and benefits). Fellows also receive Paid Time Off for vacation, sick and holiday time off from clinic work. There is no tuition associated with the program.


Applicants must be residents of the U.S. and have NC PT licensure. Applicants must be Board Certified in Pediatrics (PCS), and/or have graduated from an ABPTRFE-accredited pediatric residency program. Pediatric acute care experience is preferred.

If you have not completed a residency and do not hold the PCS credentials, you may apply to our Path to Fellowship Program. The Path to Fellowship Program is a 24 month curriculum in which participants complete our pediatric residency in year one of the program, followed by our fellowship in year two.

Apply now for pediatric residency program.

Program Accreditation

UNC Health Neonatal Physical Therapy Fellowship program has been granted accreditation through ABPTRFE.

Program Outcomes

  • 100% successful graduation of fellows
  • 100% of graduates are currently employed in a NICU setting
  • 2021 graduate completed a presentation at a national conference

Application and Enrollment

Applications for the 2023-2024 cohort open October 1 with a deadline of December 10. Application will be in RF-PTCAS.

We will invite strong candidates for an interview on Monday, January 9.

Helpful Links

NC Children's Hospital Rehabilitation

NC Children's Hospital Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE)