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Developmental Pediatric Associates

Neurodevelopmental Pediatricians

Neurodevelopmental Pediatricians provide evaluation and treatment for children and adolescents experiencing a wide range of developmental and behavioral difficulties, including but not limited to:

Delayed development in speech, language, motor skills, and cognitive ability

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Cerebral Palsy and other Motor Disorders

Genetic Disorders

Learning disorders such as Dyslexia, Specific Learning Disabilities inReading, Writing, and Math, and other school-related learning problems

Neurodevelopmental Pediatricians work closely with families and other professionals including Primary Care Physicians, Child Study team members, Speech, Occupational, and Physical therapists, Child Psychiatrists, and Child Neurologists, providing multidisciplinary care for your child.


About our Developmental Pediatricians:

Audrey Mars, M.D. received her medical degree from Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv, Israel. She completed her pediatric residency at New York University Medical Center and a fellowship in Developmental Disabilities at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s Seashore House. Dr. Mars has worked in New Jersey since 1996, when she was on the faculty of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Division of Developmental Disabilities. She joined Hunterdon Developmental Pediatric Associates in 2003 and is currently Medical Director of Hunterdon Healthcare’s Child Development Center which includes Hunterdon Regional Autism Center and has received funding from the NJ Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism.

Dr. Mars works with children with a wide range of developmental disabilities and has a special interest in early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Mars has been published in several medical journals including: Pediatrics, The Journal of Pediatrics, and American Journal of Human Genetics. She was Autism NJ's (formerly COSAC) Healthcare Professional of the Year in 2008 and serves as a member of their professional advisory board.

In addition to her clinical responsibilities, Dr. Mars has been involved in research to track prevalence of ASD since 1998; participating in prevalence work under the Centers for Disease Control and the NJ Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism. As a consultant for UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School she is an expert reviewer for the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, currently active on the NJ -8 year old surveillance study and 4 year old ASD pilot project. The US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) recently honored Dr. Mars with a placque for her commitment to NCBDDD and to individuals with autism. Dr. Mars was the only physician in the United States to receive such an awarded.

Frances Rhoads, M.D. received her medical degree from Cambridge University in England and completed her pediatric residency at Philadelphia General Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. She completed a fellowship in Child Development at Kauikeolani Children’s Hospital in Honolulu, HI. While in Hawaii, Dr. Rhoads was the medical director of a multi-disciplinary child development and school problem clinic. She then worked in Washington DC, in inner-city clinics providing general care for low income and recently immigrated children. She also organized a developmental evaluation clinic within the general pediatric ambulatory care center at the Children’s National Medical Center. Prior to joining Developmental Pediatric Associates, Dr. Rhoads worked at Saint Peter’s University Hospital and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in a variety of capacities; a mixture of general, academic and neurodevelopmental pediatrics.

Throughout her career, Dr. Rhoads has been on the faculty of medical schools. She has been actively involved in teaching pediatric and family practice residents and medical students – for which she has received many teaching awards. She has an interest in preschool age developmental delays and elementary school age learning disabilities. She is fluent in Spanish and has particular experience in working with families from Mexico and Central America.

Michele Willems-Plakyda, M.D. received her medical degree from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She completed her residency and served as chief resident at Robert Wood Johnson and Saint Peter’s University Hospitals. She then completed a fellowship in Neurodevelopmental Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She also served as a staff physician at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside and Robert Wood Johnson university Hospital.

Dr. Willems-Plakyda has a long history of working with people who have developmental disabilities. Throughout college and medical school she was a volunteer for Special Olympics and worked for the Arc. Dr. Willems-Plakyda's special interests are children with physical disabilities, children with genetic syndromes and children with learning disabilities and ADHD.

S. Michael Vergara, M.D. received his medical degree from Saint Louis University College of Medicine in Baguio City, Philippines. He completed his pediatric residency at Columbia University and a fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine.

 Prior to joining Developmental Pediatric Associates, Dr. Vergara worked in New York City where he was Medical Director of a large non-profit child welfare agency that provides care to medically fragile children who are in the foster care system.  Dr. Vergara has a special interest in working with children with ADHD.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Lori Kennedy, RN, MSN, PNP, C, received her Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Nursing from Seton Hall University. Before she joined Developmental Pediatric Associates, Lori worked in outpatient pediatric oncology at United Hospital and provided primary pediatric care at St. Barnabas Hospital and Summit Medical Group. Lori is active in her professional organization, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and was Treasurer of their New Jersey chapter for six years. Lori has always had a strong interest in working with kids, and finds way to do that in her professional and personal life; she teaches religious education at her church, and lives in Three Bridges with her husband and their five children.

Cynthia Utter, RN, MSN, PNP, C, received her Bachelors Degree from the University of Florida and her Masters Degree from Rutgers University. Prior to joining Developmental Pediatric Associates she was part of a Pediatric Neurology practice in Morristown. Cindi also worked for several years at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Neonatal Developmental Follow Up Clinic and as a clinical pediatric nursing instructor at the County College of Morris. Cindi lives in Middlesex County with her husband and their three children.

For more information or to schedule an appointment call Developmental Pediatric Associates at (908) 788-6650.