Docs for Tots 20th Anniversary Year

Milestones to Remember


20th Anniversary Celebration

On November 9th, we celebrated 20 years as an organization. Sonia Manzano, best known as ‘Maria’ from Sesame Street, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Heather Edwards, Executive Director at the Allied Foundation, received the Physician Champion award. Jan Barbieri, who served as Executive Director of the Child Care Council of Nassau from 2001-2020, was honored with the Child Care Champion Award. Alan Muraoka, current owner of Mr. Hooper’s grocery store on Sesame Street, served as Master of Ceremonies. We had a wonderful time celebrating this milestone and cannot thank everyone enough for coming out to support us!



Pelumi Soyemi, Docs for Tots’ Implementation Specialist, was selected as a NYSCHECK scholar. NYSCHECK is the first statewide publicly funded network of Children’s Environmental Health Centers in the country. Scholars across the state work together to protect and promote children’s health and the environment.

Pelumi’s work with NYSCHECK focuses on developing an environmental needs assessment for children (0-5) living in the Wyandanch catchment area. Engaging parents of young children in a photovoice project will bring greater awareness to the environmental health priorities of families and children living in Wyandanch and prompt focused interventions targeted at identified environmental health concerns.


Launch of BRITE

In 2021, we launched BRITE – Building Relationships in Infant Toddler Early Education. This program works with family and group family providers in Nassau County and Queens to support providers and help improve the social emotional wellbeing of the infants and toddlers in their care. It has been a rewarding experience for our BRITE team members to work closely with Home-Based child care providers.


Help Me Grow Long Island Kick Off

Docs for Tots’ launches Help Me Grow Long Island with a kick off that included special grand rounds hosted by NYU Long Island, meetings with county officials, and a party for all the partners that make Help Me Grow Long Island possible. We were fortunate to have Dr. Paul Dworkin, Founding Director of Help Me Grow National Center, to celebrate the launch and our joining the Help Me Grow family. Now in it’s fifth year, Help Me Grow Long Island is pleased to be partnering with the other NY State Help Me Grow systems (Western NY, Finger Lakes, and Onondaga) to build Help Me Grow NY!


15th Anniversary

In May of 2018, we celebrated 15 years as an organization and 5 years in NYC. Founder George Askew was honored, and Ophira Eisenberg, host of Ask Me Another from NPR was the master of ceremonies. It was a great time with friends from the past and future – Check out the pictures from the event, and be sure to mark your calendars for our 20th Anniversary Shin-Dig on November 9th! 


Well Moms, Well Tots

Docs for Tots’ launches Well Moms, Well Tots: Maternal Depression and Mother Child-Well Being a practice improvement project to help pediatric providers integrate maternal depression screening. Melissa Passarelli headed the project and Laraib Humayun joined the Docs for Tots team to make change happen! Maternal depression has a significant impact on quality of life and can impair a mother’s ability to develop healthy attachment and parenting skills in a child’s early years. Melissa and Laraib addressed considerations such as stigma and language barriers that make it harder to communicate with providers and connect to helpful services. The work later received a 2018 Honorable Mention in Innovative Community Solutions at the Maternal Mental Health Innovation Awards by 2020 Mom and the Marce Society of North America.


In order to Build Systems in Early Childhood, you have to have your internal systems in order

In 2013, Rita (Ikadshi) brought her boundless energy and creativity to Docs for Tots in an administrative role.
Liz would ask: “Do you know anything about accounting?”
Ikadshi: “Not really.”
Liz: “OK – well, here is QuickBooks – figure it out.”
And she did. She built the systems on the “business end” that Docs for Tots needed to start the systems building in early childhood. Couldn’t have done it without you, Ikadshi! 


Nassau Thrives

October 29, 2013, Child Care Council of Nassau Receives Superstorm Sandy Social Services Block Grant in Collaboration with Docs for Tots and Adelphi University Institute for Parenting. The project, called NASSAU THRIVES – Building Resiliency in Young Children, promoted social-emotional health for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers through outreach to early care and learning providers, curriculum implementation, and support services, including an evidence-based mental health consultation model which Docs For Tots is overseeing.
This work continued until 2017 and laid the foundation for the work that Docs for Tots continues to this day in the area of Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation with Project BRITE – Building Relationship in Infant and Toddler Early Education.


Rauch and Hagedorn Foundation Fund Developmental Screening

In 2013 Docs for Tots received grants from the Rauch Foundation and Hagedorn Foundation to help improve developmental screening practices across Nassau County. This funding enabled Docs for Tots to work with healthcare practices:

• Supporting doctors in their Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) efforts by aligning early screening and referral practices with core NCQA and NYS requirements
• Linking parents and doctors to community resources to support the youngest children
• Providing a learning community to share successes, challenges, and opportunities


Docs for Tots moves to New York under the leadership of co-directors Dr. Liz Isakson and Dr. Dina Lieser

Dr. Isakson, Docs for Tots current Executive Director, and her co-director at the time, Dina Lieser, MD, changed the focus of Docs for Tots from a nationally oriented one, to a New York State oriented one, knowing that the NYS based activities and related outcomes could still have national implications. The initial NY board of directors (Liz, Dina, Rahil Briggs, and Lisa Langhart) developed a strategic plan with an updated mission:

To bring together children’s doctors and communities to promote practices, policies and investments in children from prenatal to age five that foster children’s healthy development and future success.

This mission remains the same to this day, accomplished in its early years in NY through five priority issues:
· Promoting the Early Childhood Medical Home
· Increasing Developmental Screening
· Promoting High Quality Early Care and Education
· Improving Social-Emotional Health
· Addressing the Impacts of Poverty


Docs for Tots founded by pediatrician Dr. George L. Askew in Washington, DC

As an urban-based pediatrician, Dr. Askew (current President and CEO of the Meyer Foundation and former NYC Deputy Commissioner of Health) was continually frustrated by factors beyond his clinical practice walls that had far greater impact on his patient’s well-being than anything he could “treat” in the office. These included: poverty, lack of access to social services, inadequate early care and education, unsafe environments, racism, and more.
He founded Docs for Tots to create a way for children’s doctors to actively promote policies and practices to improve the health and development of infants and young children, taking the practice of medicine beyond clinic walls.

2023 is the 20th anniversary year of the founding of Docs for Tots. We will be highlighting a milestone each month – check back to see how Docs for Tots has matured!

Originally based in Washington, DC, Docs for Tots vision was to: 
Create a society in which no young child lives in poverty or suffers from disparities in health and development due to race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status; all young children have access to quality early care and education; and children’s doctors are actively engaged in bringing about these changes.

Come back to read about more milestones from the past 20 years!

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