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Mandy Brown Belfort
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Interim Vice Chair of Research, Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine

Dr. Belfort’s research focuses on how early-life nutritional exposures impact health and developmental outcomes later in life. Her work has emphasized the NICU hospitalization as a critical window of opportunity for effective diet-based interventions. She has a particular interest in human milk and breastfeeding and has identified long-lasting neurodevelopmental benefits of maternal milk-based diets for both full term and very preterm infant populations. She received her MD at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, completed Pediatric residency in the Boston Combined Residency Program, and completed fellowships in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Pediatric Health Services Research at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Belfort also earned an MPH in clinical effectiveness at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.


Kaitlin George
Senior Project Manager

Kaitlin joined the Belfort Lab in 2016 and supports most of the lab’s ongoing research and quality improvement projects. She earned Master’s Degrees in Biological and Biomedical Anthropology from Binghamton University, and published her thesis on social support and breastfeeding behavior. Before joining the lab, Kaitlin contributed to other research projects at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, managed the operations of a biobank at the RF For SUNY, and coordinated the community programs of a statewide maternal-child health organization in New York. Kaitlin has also designed and conducted research projects within the lab, including semi-structured interviews with parents of preterm infants, and an analysis of donor human milk policies used in well baby nurseries in the region. She is passionate about improving health outcomes in vulnerable populations and centering patient and family perspectives.

Laurie Foster
Senior Coordinator

Laurie moved back to her native Massachusetts to join the Belfort Lab in 2019 from Minnesota, where she worked with Dr. Ellen Demerath at the University of Minnesota coordinating a study on maternal obesity, breastmilk composition and infant growth. Prior to that she was a research coordinator in Pain, Palliative and Integrative Care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis. She is a child life specialist, parent educator and lactation counselor, and has years of experience working with mothers and babies both in and out of hospital settings. As a member of the Belfort Lab, Laurie coordinated the COVID-19 Lactation Study and currently coordinates daily operations for the Nourish Study. Laurie is passionate about supporting parents in their role and observing baby’s behavior as their unique way of communicating with those around them.

Tina Steele
Senior Research Nurse

Tina is a Registered Nurse specializing in neonatal intensive care and for the last 20 years, a board-certified Lactation Consultant. She is the Senior Research Nurse for the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine and is responsible for assisting with study design, implementation, and nursing education for the department’s clinical research operations. Tina has been a key member of most Belfort Lab studies since 2016, including the Pre-Nourish Study, the Nourish Study, the Zinc Study, and the Breast Milk Nutrition Study. She also mentors and supervises the Department’s Research Assistants, including those in the Belfort Lab. Tina is passionate about improving the parent/family experience in the NICU as well as the care, nutrition, and growth of preterm infants.

Hunter Pepin
Senior Project Manager

Hunter Pepin joined the Belfort Lab in 2022 overseeing The Baby BEAN Project and to support NICU Nutrition related quality improvement projects. Soon after graduating with a Master’s in Nutrition at Boston University and completing her dietetic internship, she found her happy place in the NICU caring for the smallest (and cutest!) patients. During her 10+ years as a NICU dietitian, she developed strong interests in human milk, preterm infant growth, and data-driven quality improvement of clinical care. She completed the Nutritional Care of the High-Risk Infant Advanced Practice Residency, working with Dr. Belfort on her capstone project Growth of VLBW infants fed varying amounts of Human Milk during NICU stay. This and her time working on the Nourish Study as a clinical dietitian unleased a new excitement for clinical research. She is thrilled to be part of the research team, working together to further our knowledge of how to optimize nutritional care and management for preterm infants during the critical first days to year of life.


Silvi Minga

Originally from Philadelphia, Silvi graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and minors in Chemistry, Environmental Science, and Hispanic Studies. As an aspiring pediatrician, she enjoys being part of the Nourish team and learning about improving long-term outcomes for premature neonates. Her hobbies include reading fiction, playing the acoustic guitar, and practicing Spanish.

Emily Zucker

Emmy graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health and Religious Studies. She conducted research in the NICU at UVA, and as a member of the Nourish team she continues learning in this field. Her goal is to become a neonatologist and conduct research to improve outcomes for premature neonates with neurological issues. In her free time she likes to cook, listen to live music, and travel.


Manasa Kuncham

Manasa is originally from Texas and graduated from Austin College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology. She was a part of Dr. Lance Barton’s cancer research lab, where she focused on the characterization of DNA-binding and the anti-proliferative effects of modified Platinum(II) compounds. Her continued interest in health sciences led her to pursue a Master’s degree in public health at Boston University, with a concentration in biostatistics and epidemiology. Manasa is a member of the data management and analysis team in the Belfort Lab. In the future, she hopes to lead her own research investigations to improve preventative healthcare for vulnerable populations. In her free time, she likes to hike, travel, read, and cook.


Katherine Bell
Instructor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Katherine is a neonatologist who completed her pediatric training at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and her neonatology fellowship through the Harvard Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Program. In addition to caring for infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she performs clinical research focused on investigating the impact that infant diet and body composition–the relative contribution of fat and lean mass to body weight–have on later health outcomes such as brain development and risk of obesity. Her current research interests include the development of novel methods to assess nutritional status for preterm infants–like body composition measurement–and the influence of neonatal diet and nutritional status on brain growth, neurodevelopment, and cardiometabolic health. The overall goal of her work is to identify strategies that promote healthy infant weight gain to optimize long-term health outcomes.

Paige Berger
Instructor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Paige is a PhD-investigator and registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) studying nutritional influences of infant growth and development during the first 1,000 days. She joined the department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as an investigator in 2022. Paige completed her doctoral training in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Georgia, where she also held a position as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Leann Birch. She then pursued postdoctoral research with Dr. Michael Goran at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. The overall goal her research is to determine associations of nutritional exposures with infant growth and brain development and cognitive functioning. Paige’s current research will determine the role of human milk oligosaccharides on MRI indices of brain development in very preterm infants. Ultimately, this work may enhance our understanding of human milk bioactives and composition, with implications for the nutritional care of very preterm infants in the NICU.

Sara Cherkerzian
Instructor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Sara is a biostatistician in the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine with training in epidemiology and biostatistics from Harvard School of Public Health. Her research focus is on longitudinal studies of neurodevelopmental and anthropometric growth in infants and children.  Dr. Cherkerzian works across multiple research studies in the department in collaboration with the clinical research faculty in the areas of developmental neuroscience, global newborn health, newborn genomic medicine, and perinatal nutrition for mothers and infants.

Margaret Ong

Margaret is originally from sunny Southern California but moved out to seasonal Boston for her fellowship. She completed her undergraduate, medical school, and pediatrics residency training at the University of California, Los Angeles. Margaret completed her NICU fellowship in the Harvard Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship Program and is now an attending in the Brigham and Women’s NICU. Her research interests are in neonatal nutrition and its impacts on long-term growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes in the high-risk preterm population. Her current research explores exposure to a class of bioactive factors called human milk oligosaccharides (or HMOs) in maternal milk on anthropometric growth, body composition, and brain development in preterm infants.


Saharnaz Talebiyan

Saharnaz joined the Belfort Lab as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in 2021. She earned her medical degree with Pediatrics (specialty) and Perinatal-Neonatal (fellowship) board certifications from Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. Her research focuses on nutrition-based interventions that improve the long-term health and developmental outcomes of preterm infants, specifically on enteral nutrition and human milk. Her skillset is centered around measuring clinical variables, epidemiologic study design, and quality improvement methodology. Saharnaz is currently investigating the optimization point-of-care milk analysis in the clinical setting. Her long-term goal is to contribute fundamentally to the field of preterm newborn nutrition.


Jordan O’Brien

Originally from New Jersey, Jordan received a BS in Neuroscience from University of New Hampshire and MS in Physiology from Georgetown University. She worked primarily on the Nourish Study for 2 years, then completed an accelerated nursing program while working with our lab per diem. Her interest in nursing developed through interacting with babies and families in Nourish, and she is now beginning her nursing career as a NICU nurse. Jordan was also a preemie born at 24 weeks.

Agata Atayde

Agata grew up in Boston in a first-generation immigrant family from Spain. She worked with the Belfort Lab while completing an MPH at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Nutrition and Maternal and Child Health. Agata worked on projects related to the relationship between lactoferrin and infant neurodevelopment with the lab, and is now studying to become a physician.

Meghana Iragavarapu

Meghana graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts in the “Intersection of Food Availability, Nutrition, and Health Outcomes,” a major she designed as part of Duke’s Program II. From farm, to table, to hospital, she studied how people’s geographic, socioeconomic, and demographic factors influence their relationship with food as a form of preventative, first-line defense against non-communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes, and kidney failure. As an RA on the Nourish Study from 2021-2023, Meghana extended her interest in early-nutrition interventions to newborns. Meghana is now pursuing graduate studies at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Lara Rostomian

Lara joined the lab as a graduate student pursuing a Master of Science in Reproductive, Perinatal, and Pediatric Epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her previous research has centered family planning and sexual health in Middle Eastern and Transcaucasian populations. Her research interests include examining reproductive, fetal, and maternal health disparities in conflict- and crisis-affected populations. With the Belfort Lab, she examined the effects of COVID-19 hospital practices on breastfeeding behaviors. Her master’s thesis research examines the effects of crises on maternal and infant health in Armenia, specifically in the context following the 2020 Nagorno Karabagh war. After graduate school, she plans to matriculate into medical school with the ultimate goal of working as a researcher, advocate, and healthcare provider in the field of maternal and perinatal health.

Rachel Lee

Rachel joined the lab as an MPH candidate at T. H. Chan School of Public Health. She is a Registered Dietitian and an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant with expertise in fertility through postpartum, but particularly in gestational diabetes. Her research interests include breastmilk benefits and the burden of gestational diabetes (and diabetes) in Asian populations. In her free time, you can find her reading a good book and trying out new coffee and teas!

Sundas Saboor

Sundas joined the lab as an MPH-65 student at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, concentrating in Maternal Child Health (Health and Social Behavior). She is an international physician interested in pediatrics, with diverse experience in child health and research in Pakistan, Canada and the US. In the Belfort Lab, Sundas worked on a project assessing maternal experiences in participating in breastmilk fortification research in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She plans to apply for a medical residency in the US and is interested in pediatric nutrition research.

Erika (Gaby) Cordova-Ramos

Gaby is a neonatologist, researcher, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. She completed medical school at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Peru, residency with the Boston Combined Residency Program, and a fellowship in the Harvard Combined Residency Program. In the Belfort Lab (2017-2020), Gaby’s research examined associations of feeding practices with postnatal growth and long-term outcomes of preterm infants. She joined Boston Medical Center in 2020. As a KL2 Boston University (BU) scholar and fellow of the BU Evans Center for Implementation and Improvement Science, her research focuses on adaptation and implementation of evidence-based practices in safety-net settings to better the health trajectories of high-risk infants and their families.

Betina Soldateli

Betina is a nutritionist and epidemiologist who joined the Belfort Lab in 2019 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. She was involved in three projects: Neonatal Quality Improvement Collaborative of Massachusetts (NeoQIC), Observational study of human milk intake and preterm infant growth, and the Breast Milk Nutrition Study. She analyzed epidemiological data regarding preterm infant nutrition and growth. Betina is now a professor of Nutrition and researcher in south Brazil and has been applying the knowledge from time spent with the Belfort Lab to her own research focused on the Brazilian population. She conducts two ongoing projects – a multicenter study on diet and growth in Brazilian preterm infants, and an analysis of the association between infant size at 1-year of age and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder later in life in preterm infants from the 1993 and 2004 Pelotas birth cohorts. In addition to continuing these projects, Betina looks forward to welcoming a baby boy to her family this year.

Neena Kapoor

Neena is currently a researcher with the QuEST Network at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Prior to this role, Neena received a Master of Science in Global Health & Population with a concentration in Maternal & Child Health from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. During her masters, Neena was selected for the Maternal & Child Health Leadership Lab to work on projects with the Belfort Lab focused on lactoferrin and its effect on neurodevelopment in infants. She also received a Bachelor of Science in Medicine, Health & Society from Vanderbilt University in 2019. Neena is a health systems researcher committed to building rigorous evidence for health systems globally.

Andrea Klein

Andrea grew up in California and received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019. Before joining the Belfort Lab in 2020, Andrea worked as a Research Assistant on the Women’s Health Study at Boston Children’s Hospital. Andrea worked on both the COVID-19 Lactation Study and the Nourish Study. Her favorite part of Nourish was receiving photo updates and seeing families in the follow-up clinic. Andrea is now in nursing school pursuing the next step in her career.

Madeline Ross

Madeline worked with the Belfort lab from 2018-2020 as a research assistant and was a key member in setting up and launching the Zinc study in conjunction with collaborators at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is now a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a member of the Physician Scientist Training Program. Her research is focused on zinc signaling in neurobiology. She is currently interested in a future career in pediatric neurology.

Emma Davitt

Emma worked with the Belfort Team from 2018-2020 as a research assistant. Most of her time was spent working on the Pre-Nourish Study, the pilot for the Nourish Study. In addition to implementing the pilot, she helped analyze interviews of mothers who participated in the Pre-Nourish Study and gave an oral presentation at the 2020 Gravens Conference on the maternal experience participating in this research. Additionally, Emma was a key member in setting up and launching the Nourish study. Emma’s passion for working with NICU families and preterm babies led her to pursue a career in nursing. Following her time at BWH, she moved to Seattle where she completed a post-bachelor program in Nursing and now works as a NICU nurse. Her favorite part of working with the Belfort team was her time spent with our tiny research participants and their families.

Caroline Palmer

Caroline was a key member in several studies and projects. She primarily worked on the Breast Milk Nutrition Study, which enrolled over one hundred infants and collected thousands of breastmilk samples. Over her three years here, she also worked on the Pre-NOURISH Study (the pilot to the Nourish Study) and Dr. Katherine Bell’s Body Composition Study. Caroline also presented preliminary findings from the Breast Milk Nutrition study at the 2018 Nutrition Conference. She left the Belfort Lab in 2018 to start medical school at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany. With 2 years left in her studies, and she is enjoying the perks of living and studying in Europe and hopes to pursue pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, or family medicine after finishing her degree.

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