Remembering Lori J. Howell

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lori howell It is with the deepest sadness that I share the news that Lori J. Howell, DNP, MS, RN, beloved colleague, clinical innovator and former Executive Director for the Richard D. Wood Jr. Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment (CFDT) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), passed away Friday, January 19th after a courageous battle with ovarian cancer. Lori was surrounded by her loving family.

For more than 40 years, Lori was committed to ensuring the highest standard of care for families facing birth defects. First at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she served as the very first fetal surgery nurse coordinator for that institution’s nascent fetal program, and later in 1995 when she and I established CHOP’s fetal diagnosis and treatment program. Lori was a force in advancing the field of fetal treatment from its inception!

During her 27 years at CHOP, Lori helped catapult our fetal therapy program into the largest and most comprehensive program in the world. She helped recruit and build our stellar multidisciplinary team, established innovative and personalized patient care approaches, developed important patient education, and championed both innovative research approaches and the importance of long-term follow-up, all of which are now the gold standard in fetal medicine and have been modeled by colleagues around the world.

In 2008, we were able to see our vision become a reality with the opening of CHOP’s Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit (SDU), the world’s first birth facility in a pediatric hospital specifically designed for healthy mothers carrying babies with known birth defects. The SDU allows moms to stay close while their babies are treated immediately. Having this comprehensive care in one location is critically important to the well-being of babies born with complex congenital conditions. Lori was essential in making the SDU what it is today.

In addition to her clinical expertise, Lori was a co-investigator on many research studies including the National Institutes of Health’s “Management of Myelomeningocele Study” (MOMS). This landmark study demonstrated that performing fetal surgery for spina bifida results in significantly improved outcomes versus conventional postnatal repair.

In 1997, Lori established CHOP’s annual Fetal Family Reunion, a wonderful celebration each June for families from our fetal program. This past year, at our 27th reunion, over 3,000 people gathered, representing the more than 30,000 expectant mothers cared for in the CFDT, from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. This was one of Lori’s favorite days of the year. In a tribute to Lori, this day of celebration will be named the Lori J. Howell Fetal Family Reunion.

In addition to her work in fetal diagnosis and treatment, Lori was a leader and mentor to many. While at UCSF, as the Clinical Nurse Specialist for Pediatric Surgery, she developed the pediatric pain management, tracheostomy and clean intermittent catheterization programs and worked to champion education for patient families. At CHOP, she created and led our Surgical Advanced Practice Nurses team and was instrumental in the creation of the Neonatal Surgical Team. Lori was a recipient of the Founders Award for Excellence in Pediatric Surgical Nursing and the author of several articles on the establishment of fetal centers. She was also the inaugural holder of the Lynne L. Garbose Endowed Chair in Fetal Family Care at CHOP.

Lori received her degree in Nursing at the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education at Washington State University, and received her Masters of Science in Parent/Child Nursing at UCSF. She went on to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at the Villanova University College of Nursing.

Lori was a devoted wife to her husband, Paul Teresi, and dedicated mother to her three children, Jeremy, Alicia, and Bryan. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, and her entire family, in this difficult time. Lori was relentless in her mission to provide patients with an accurate diagnosis, the best possible outcome and, most importantly, an unsurpassed experience from a multidisciplinary team. Her impact is felt at CHOP daily, through her patients and their families, and all over the world via her mentorship, education, training, and passion for excellence. Lori was beloved by so many and will be missed tremendously.  We cherish her legacy.


N. Scott Adzick, MD

If you would like to make a gift in honor of Lori, please consider donating to CHOP’s Lori J. Howell Endowment to Advance Innovation in Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment Fund, to ensure her life’s work will continue for many generations to come.

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Tour our Fetal Center

Watch this video tour to learn what to expect at your first visit to the Wood Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment.

Pregnant Mom and Child

What to Expect

From the moment of referral through delivery and postnatal care, your family can expect a supportive experience when you come to us with a diagnosis of a birth defect.