David Wirtschafter, MD, is a leader in neonatal quality improvement. After finishing his pediatric training at the Stanford University Medical Center and the University of Alabama, Birmingham Medical Center he joined the Southern California Permanente Medical Group as its Regional Coordinator of Perinatal Services (1985) and practiced as a neonatologist until his retirement in 2006.  He also served as a consultant to California Children’s Services and the California Children’s Hospital Association on their collaboratives to lower the rate of neonatal healthcare-associated infections.  David retired from clinical practice in 2012 and moved to Israel where he volunteers as a consultant to the Israeli Neonatologists Society’s, quality improvement initiatives such as decreasing healthcare-associated infections and severe intra-ventricular hemorrhages in Israel’s NICUs.

David was a member of CPQCC from its inception in 1997 and chaired its Perinatal Quality Improvement Panel (PQIP) for its first decade. David remained active in the committee’s progression towards statewide quality improvement initiatives and served as an expert panel member on CPQCC’s first collaborative in 2008. He was the inspiration behind CPQCC's QI toolkits and continues to participate actively on the PQIP Research Subcommittee, continuing his lasting impact on the lives of newborns across the state of California.

In honor of David's ongoing dedication to improvement in the field, the Wirtschafter Award is jointly sponsored by CPQCC and the California Association of Neonatologists (CAN) and is awarded to:

  • individual leaders or emerging leaders in neonatal quality improvement or
  • NICU QI teams that have contributed not only within their unit but across the neonatal community

Nominations are open from March 1st - January 31st every year. Awards are presented at CPQCC's annual Improvement Palooza event every March. 

Submit a nomination for the Wirtschafter Award

2024 Awardees

Kathryn Ponder, MD & Kimberly Grelli, MD
​​John Muir Medical Center



Drs. Ponder and Grelli’s leadership in the NEOBrain collaborative has helped strengthen our focus in developmental and neuroprotective care. Their collective successes include:

  • Interpreted and analyzed & shared the data results across the team.
  • Promoted parent participation around neuroprotective care.
  • Initiated weekly developmental rounds in our unit to assist in recognizing the highest risk patients for neurological morbidities.
  • Brought greater focus to our developmental care practices and sought ways to improve our neurodevelopmental care for every patient that was admitted to our NICU. 
  • Their culture survey showed that since their participation in the collaborative, there has been positive results in how skin to skin and neuroprotection is prioritized


Past Awardees:

2023: Kurlen Payton, MD (Co-Director of Quality Improvement Collaboratives, CPQCC; Medical Director, Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Associate Program Director, Harbor-UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship Program)

​2022: Malathi Balasundaram, MD, FAAP (El Camino Health NICU & Stanford University)

2021: El Camino Hospital - NICU Family-Centered Care Committee (Click here for a list of members of the El Camino Hospital NICU Family-Centered Care Committee)

2020: Lisa Chyi, MD (Kaiser Permanente, Northern California) and Robert Castro, MD (Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital)

2019: David Braun, MD (Kaiser Permanente, Southern California) 

2018: Jochen Profit, MD (Stanford Medical Center)

2017: John Cleary, MD (CHOC Medical Center) and Courtney Nisbet, RN, MS (CPQCC)

2016: Santa Clara Valley Medical Center

2015: Allen Fischer, MD (Kaiser Hospital, Walnut Creek)

2014: Antoine Soliman, MD (Miller Children's and Women's Hospital, Long Beach)

2013: Priya Jegatheesan, MD (Santa Clara Valley Medical Center)

2012: Alex Espinoza, MD (Alta Bates Medical Center)

2011: Paul Sharek, MD (Stanford Medical Center)

2010: Henry Lee, MD (UCSF)