Director, Children’s Center ECMO Program
Melania Bembea came to Johns Hopkins as a Pediatric Critical Care Medicine fellow in 2006 and joined the PICU faculty as an attending physician in 2009. Beginning in 2015, she became Director of the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program in the Children’s Center. Approximately 25–30 neonates, infants, and children are treated with ECMO each year at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Bembea oversees education, quality improvement, and administrative aspects of the program. She also ensures that the program meets quality standards that have earned it recognition from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO) as a Center of Excellence since 2011. Dr. Bembea finds it extremely rewarding to take care of children and their families and values the tremendous amount of collaboration that occurs between the various disciplines that work together toward a common goal.
A child can be on ECMO from a few days to several weeks, and Dr. Bembea’s research is focused on determining the best ways to monitor neurologic status of these critically ill patients. To that end, she is investigating novel neuromonitoring methods and working toward developing a panel of brain-specific proteins that could be measured in the blood. Brain-specific protein testing could become an adjunct to other neuromonitoring methods commonly used in intensive care units (e.g., cerebral oximetry, EEG) and could act as triggers for obtaining neuroimaging studies (e.g., brain CT). They could also be used to assess response to neuroprotective interventions, prognosticate long-term outcomes, and assist with family counseling. She uses neuroimaging techniques and sees patients for follow-up at 6 months and 1 year to assess their development, evaluate their neurologic function, and ascertain their self-reported health-related quality of life. This research, which is being conducted in collaboration with other ECMO centers, will enable her and her colleagues to correlate protein levels with specific outcomes. She believes that by optimizing neuromonitoring, this research will help improve safety and outcomes of patients who require ECMO. Dr. Bembea is also actively collaborating in research related to coagulation disturbances and blood transfusion requirements during ECMO. That research is carried out within the international Pediatric Critical Care Blood Research Network, Blood Net (http://www.bloodnetresearch.org/).
Dr. Bembea attended medical school in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, at the Iuliu Hatieganu School of Medicine and then did her residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital at the Cleveland Clinic from 2003 to 2006. She continued her training as a pediatric critical care fellow at Johns Hopkins from 2006 to 2009. She also earned her master’s degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2008 and her PhD in Clinical Investigation in 2014.