Harolyn M. E. Belcher, M.D., M.H.S.

Harolyn Belcher
Harolyn Belcher
Director of Research, Family Center

Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 North Broadway
Baltimore MD 21205
Phone: (443) 923-3593
Email: belcher@kennedykrieger.org

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.


Biographical Sketch:

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.


Research Summary:

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.

LINK: SciVal Experts Research Profile for Harolyn Belcher


Research Studies:


Research Publications

Offerman BJ, Johnson E, Johnson-Brooks ST, Belcher HM. (2014). Get SMART: Effective Treatment for Sexually Abused Children with Problematic Sexual behavior. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 1(3), 179-191. doi: 10.1080/19361520802313445.

Lyn A, Turner-Musa J, Morgan I, Belcher HM. (2014). Maternal characteristics associated with child behavior reports in Head Start. Journal of Community Psychology, 42(5), 571-582. doi: 10.1002/jcop.21638.

Greeson JK, Briggs EC, Layne CM, Belcher HM, Ostrowski SA, Kim S, Lee RC, Vivrette RL, Pynoos RS, Fairbank JA. (2014). Traumatic childhood experiences in the 21st century: broadening and building on the ACE studies with data from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Journal of Interersonal Violence, 29(3), 536-556.

Whitaker D, Milam AJ, Graham CM, Cooley-Strickland M, Belcher HM, Furr-Holden CD. (2013). Neighborhood environment and urban schoolchildren's risk for being overweight. American Journal of Health Promotion: AJHP, 27(6), 410-416.

Hart SL, Hodgkinson SC, Belcher HM, Hyman C, Cooley-Strickland M. (2013). Somatic symptoms, peer and school stress, and family and community violence exposure among urban elementary school children. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 36(5), 454-465.

Ofonedu ME, Percy WH, Harris-Britt A, Belcher HM. (2013). Depression in Inner City African American Youth: A Phenomenological Study. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22(1), 96-106. doi: 10.1007/s10826-012-9583-3.

Briggs EC, Fairbank JA, Greeson JK, Layne CM, Steinberg AM, Amaya-Jackson LM, Ostrowski SA, Gerrity ET, Elmore DL, Belcher HM, Pynoos RS. (2013). Links Between Child and Adolescent Trauma Exposure and Service Use Histories in a National Clinic-Referred SamplePsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 5(2), 101-109. doi: 10.1037/a0027312.

Suarez LM, Belcher HM, Briggs EC, Titus JC. (2012). Supporting the need for an integrated system of care for youth with co-occurring traumatic stress and substance abuse problems. American Journal of Community Psychology, 49(3-4), 430-440.

Onigu-Otite EC, Belcher HM. (2012). Maternal drug abuse history, maltreatment, and functioning in a clinical sample of urban children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(6), 491-497.

Hunt KL, Martens PM, Belcher HM. (2011). Risky business: trauma exposure and rate of posttraumatic stress disorder in African American children and adolescents. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 24(3), 365-369.

Hodgkinson SC, Colantuoni E, Roberts D, Berg-Cross L, Belcher HM. (2010). Depressive symptoms and birth outcomes among pregnant teenagers. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 23(1), 16-22.

Jamora MS, Brylske PD, Martens P, Braxton D, Colantuoni E, Belcher HM. (2009). Children in Foster Care: Adverse Childhood Experiences and Psychiatric Diagnoses. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 2(3), 198-208. doi: 10.1080/19361520903120491.