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A free resource that provides access to information and support for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities.
Harolyn M. E. Belcher, M.D., M.H.S.
Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 North Broadway
Baltimore MD 21205
Phone: (443) 923-3593
Dr. Harolyn M. E. Belcher is a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute. She is currently the director of research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Family Center. Dr. Belcher is also jointly appointed in the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, while also holding the rank of associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Dr. Belcher received her bachelor's of science degree in zoology from Howard University in Washington, DC in 1980, her medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine in 1982, and her master's in health science focusing on mental hygiene in 2002 from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Belcher began as a fellow in developmental pediatrics at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in 1985. She went on to serve as assistant professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, and then at the University of South Florida in the Department of Pediatrics within the Division of Child Development in Tampa, FL, from 1987 to 1993. Dr. Belcher continued her career as a developmental pediatrician with the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, from 1993 to 1995 before returning to Kennedy Krieger Institute as a developmental pediatrician from 1996 to the present. Dr. Belcher was an instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1996 to1997 and an assistant professor from 1998 to 2003. In the last quarter of 2003, Dr. Belcher was promoted to associate professor of pediatrics and lecturer in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and assumed the position of director of research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Family Center.
The Effects of Intrauterine Drug Exposure on the Developing Child: In the United States, an estimated 3.3 percent of newborns -- over 130,000 infants -- are born to mothers who use illicit drugs during pregnancy. An estimated 17 percent of pregnant women in the United States smoke cigarettes. About 2-12,000 children per year have enough intrauterine alcohol exposure to cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Exposure to drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are a serious cause of preventable cognitive and behavioral disorders.
Over the last ten years, Dr. Belcher has worked in the area of substance abuse prevention, treatment, and outcome. While on faculty at the University of South Florida, Dr. Belcher was instrumental in developing (1) community-based programs integrating prenatal care, substance abuse treatment, parent education and pediatric follow-up for pregnant drug-dependent women, and (2) specialized foster care evaluation and education programs for church-based foster care for HIV positive and drug exposed infants (Wallace and Belcher, 1997). Dr. Belcher is a co-investigator in an on-going NIH study to evaluate the impact of home-based nursing intervention for children with intrauterine drug exposure. Findings from this study suggest that children with intrauterine drug exposure have neuromotor abnormalities in the first year, that improve over time (Belcher, et al. ,1999). Children with intrauterine drug exposure (IUDE) who receive home-based intervention have fewer behavioral problems and less parental distress than those who did not receive the home intervention (Butz et al, 2001).
Dr. Belcher served as a co-investigator on a community-based head start prevention intervention grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This grant, the Behavioral Enhancement through Training and Teaching to Expand Resiliency (BETTER) Program, endeavored to study the impact of on-site mental health clinicians, parent education, and substance abuse prevention programs at two Baltimore City head start sites (Belcher et al., 2001). In addition, Dr. Belcher evaluates children with intrauterine drug exposure in her clinical practice at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Dr. Belcher is the principal investigator for an early head start prevention program, entitled the "Helping-U-Grow study" (HUGS). The HUGS study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, uses a randomized design to evaluate the effectiveness of the parents' healing curriculum for parents of early head start pupils. Dr. Belcher is also principal investigator on a federal grant to evaluate methods to optimize compliance during MRIs and measure the effects of illicit drug exposure on brain development and another grant that created a National Child Traumatic Stress Center at the Kennedy Krieger Institute Family Center to study and improve outcome for children exposed to maltreatment.