Neonatology superhero at Stanford celebrates more than 50 years of caring for the world’s most fragile babies


He has helped save the lives of 30,000 of the world’s most vulnerable babies. He has educated many of the world’s finest neonatologists. He has been both author and witness to an explosion of research and care for preemies.

Meet Philip Sunshine, MD, a one-of-a-kind superhero in the world of neonatology and prematurity, albeit more seasoned than most. That’s because he’s 84, still taking care of babies at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and showing no signs of stopping.

Sunshine started at Stanford in the 1950s, back when the Stanford University School of Medicine was located in San Francisco. What this gentle giant has accomplished since then not only forms a narrative of modern-day neonatal care, but also provides a legacy for modern medicine to follow.

For example, Sunshine is the discoverer of a rare and deadly metabolic disorder, a member of the team that first implemented mechanical ventilation at Stanford, and originator of a scoring system for selecting infants needing assisted ventilation. He has authored several groundbreaking research papers and has received countless awards, including the prestigious Virginia Apgar Award in Perinatal Pediatrics from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The list of his accomplishments continues — all very deep, all very scientific and all very lifesaving.

Burned out from glory? Nope. This pioneer is still excited to come to work — even on days he isn’t on duty — to check in on his patients in the Packard Intermediate Care Nursery and keep in touch with colleagues. When not working, big-time Sudoku fan Sunshine can be found on the tennis court or spending time with his wife, Beth.

“I’ve been lucky,” said Sunshine, a man whose name fits his personality. “I grew up in an exciting sub-specialty, I have five healthy children and six healthy grandkids, my wife still puts up with me, and if my health stays OK, I’ll keep working. My agreement with the division chief is that as long as I do an excellent job, he’ll keep me on.”

That chief is William Benitz, MD, who holds a professorship at the Stanford University School of Medicine that was named after Sunshine. Said Benitz: “He is one of the ‘Founding Fathers’ of neonatology and one of only a handful of people across the country who developed a serious interest in taking care of sick babies in the 1960s and 1970s.

“He has trained generations of neonatologists, including myself. His contributions to the field are without measure,” Benitz said.

Discover more about our Johnson Center for Pregnancy & Newborn Services.

Photo Credit: Stanford Medicine


4 Responses to “Neonatology superhero at Stanford celebrates more than 50 years of caring for the world’s most fragile babies”

  1. Erica DeLeon

    Dr. Sunshine is a wonderful doctor and person. His name definitely fits him. He took care of my daughter when she was there in 2012. She was fed thru an NG tube and he came to me about getting her a G-tube put in. He personally went to the Doctor and head of the surgery department and pleaded my daughters case since it was new years the next day she was in surgery. I will never forget all he has done for her.

  2. Amir

    Dear Dr Sunshine, it was a beautiful spring of 2002 when my daughter was born at little less than two lbs. Your, Dr. Phillip’s, and your great teams’ gentle touches, warm humanly advises, calm manners and superb decisions of care all led my wife and I to be hopeful, to be staying positive and to be relentless in our care for our daughter in the few months she was under your care in NICU. You all told us that it will be all right and that she will do well when at times that was very hard to imagine. You gave us the energy to care for her and turn this birth into a miracle. You and Dr Philip reassured that it’s very likely that this child will live a normal productive and healthy life once again with your calm, humanly, educated, and fatherly touch. Well, thank God with people like you above us we have a beautiful 14 year old daughter who is smart, intelligent, inquisitive, curious, and happy with goals to one day attend Stanford University as a student. My wife and I are are so grateful to you all and there isn’t a day that we look at our daughter and not think of you ALL. God bless you with good health for years more of Tennis and care at Stanford. Thank You.

  3. Thomas Martinez


    I was a patient of Dr.Sunshine 53.5 years ago.. is he still working @Stanford Hospital? He told my dad if I lived I would be considered a Stanford Graduate.. please pass this message onto him would love to stop and say hello.

    Tom Martinez.

    • JulJenkins

      Hi Thomas,

      Thank you for reaching out to us. We’ll share your message and contact info with Dr. Sunshine. Wishing you all the best!


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