Gina O’Toole, RD, MPH, CLEC, CNSC
Gina O’Toole is a Neonatal Dietitian, Certified Lactation Education Counselor and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician. She holds B.S. degrees in Exercise Science and Physical Education from Seattle Pacific University and a Master’s in Public Health and Nutrition from Loma Linda University. Gina has practiced in CHOC NICU for the past 6 years, focusing her efforts on the care of the premature infant, the surgical neonate and breast milk for the high-risk infant. Gina developed nutritional guidelines and a multi-disciplinary team focused on neonatal short bowel syndrome. She is an active participant in the Vermont Oxford Network Surgical Homeroom focused on quality improvement of the surgical neonate. She acts as a preceptor for the CHOC RD residency and RD intern programs and provides education to medical and nursing residents. Gina currently resides in Huntington Beach with her husband Kevin and daughters Lola (4) and Brooklyn (2).
Katherine Bennett, MPH, RD, CLEC
Katherine Bennett is a Registered Dietitian at CHOC Hospital. She completed, her Dietetic Internship at the University of Virginia and began a career in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Looking for cooler weather, Katherine moved to California and continued her work in neonatology and pediatric nutrition at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. Katherine received her Master’s Degree in Public Health from UCLA and also completed her CLEC. She currently works in the Gastroenterology outpatient setting and the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.
Russell Merritt, MD, PhD
Medical Director of Nutrition Support Team
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Dr. Merritt is Medical Director for Nutrition Support and Intestinal Rehabilitation at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, USC. He received his MD from UC Irvine, and his PhD from MIT. He completed pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and fellowships in clinical nutrition at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, and pediatric gastroenterology at UCLA. He is board certified in pediatrics, nutrition, and pediatric gastroenterology. He has edited ASPEN’s Nutrition Support Practice Manual and served on the board of directors of ASPEN and the American Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists. He is past president of the International Formula Council and the American Board of Nutrition. Dr. Merritt’s clinical and research interests are in intestinal rehabilitation and pediatric nutrition support.
Renee Wieman, RD, LD, CNSC
Liver/Small Bowel Care Center, Dietitian
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Renee Wieman has been a clinical dietitian for 33 years. She started off working in adult Med/Surg units, Critical Care and Oncology, however has spent the last 28 years in Pediatrics. She began working in Pediatric Critical Care, and has spent the last 18 years with the liver and/or small bowel/multivisceral transplant programs. She has given multiple presentations on various adult and Pediatric nutrition topics throughout her career. She has multiple publications on Pediatric Liver and Small Bowel transplant nutrition. She has advanced to the highest Clinical Dietitian level at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, as a Registered Dietitian III. She also enjoys visiting hospitals, nursing facilities and libraries with her two therapy dogs.
Maria Alonso, MD
Co-Surgical Director, Associate Professor
Maria Alonso, MD, is an Associate Professor and Co-Surgical Director of Intestinal Transplant Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. Alonso is a graduate of the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine, whose postgraduate training includes the completion of a general surgery residency at Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine, a trauma/critical care fellowship from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, a trauma/burn fellowship from Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C., a pediatric surgery fellowship from Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and a transplantation fellowship from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Alonso is board certified in general surgery, pediatric surgery, and surgical critical care. Her clinical interests include liver, kidney, and intestinal transplantation, hepatobiliary surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and trauma.
Karin Mitchell, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist IV
Karin received her BA in Communication Disorders at Biola University, La Mirada, CA and her MA in Speech Pathology at California State University, Fullerton, CA. Karin has been practicing as a pediatric Speech Pathologist since 1995 and currently serves as the one of the lead therapists for the NICU and Feeding Team at CHOC Hospital in Orange, CA. She has a strong theory base in Neuro-developmental Treatment (NDT) and Sensory Integration (SI), and has received certifications in Neonatal Oral-Motor Assessment Scale (NOMAS®) and VitalStim®. As an active member of numerous quality improvement committees, Karin has helped develop unit protocols and care plans for appropriate developmental care in CHOC’s Small Baby Unit. She speaks nationally on pediatric feeding and swallowing analysis and has developed online education opportunities with a focus on modified barium swallow studies. She is a strong advocate for breast-feeding and speaks at local associations to support breast-feeding for the medically fragile infant.
Vicky Vu, OT/L, BCP
Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Clin IV
Vicky Vu has been an occupational therapist since 1995 with clinical expertise in developmental movement assessment, neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT), feeding and swallowing, and infant massage. She worked at California Children Services for 14 years working with children with neuromuscular deficits including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, and brachial plexus palsy. Vicky was also an instructor at Santa Ana College in the OTA program focusing on Activities Analysis Lab and Physical Disabilities. In 2012, Vicky joined the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) developmental team at the CHOC Hospital in Orange County where she has gained in depth knowledge of medically fragile babies including babies in the Small Baby Unit (SBU). She is an active member of the NICU surgical workgroup and represents the feeding team for short bowel syndrome rounds. In addition to her clinical expertise in the NICU, she performs Modified Barium Swallow studies (MBSS). Vicky is also working alongside Dr. Amber Leis in developing the Brachial Plexus Injury clinic at CHOC. Vicky is board certified in pediatrics, certified in physical agent modalities, Vital Stim, lactation educator counselor, and pediatric massage.
Leigh Volker, LCSW
Clinical Social Worker
Leigh is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been serving families at CHOC for nearly 12 years. She earned her Master of Social Work from Loma Linda University and Bachelor of Science in Human Services from California State University, Fullerton. Leigh works in the Gastroenterology Division, providing psychosocial assessment, supportive counseling, crisis intervention and resources to children and families with a wide array of GI diagnoses including short bowel syndrome, intestinal failure and chronic pseudo-obstruction. Leigh is an integral team member in both the CHOC Home TPN Program and CHOC Multidisciplinary Feeding Program. Leigh has presented at both the National and California Speech and Hearing Association Conferences on topics including an intensive multidisciplinary model for complex feeding disorders and g-tube weaning, as well as changing the parent-child feeding relationship. Leigh recently coauthored Successful Gastrostomy Tube Weaning Program Using an Intensive Multidisciplinary Team Approach in JPGN.
Betty Kuo, PT, PCS, CWS, OMS
Physical Therapist III
Betty has been a physical therapist since 2000 and has been working at CHOC Hospital in Orange County since 2003. She currently works primarily in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Betty has certifications in Pediatrics, wound care, and ostomy management.