A neonatologist springs into action at what’s supposed to be a joy-filled time in a parent’s life but has become one of apprehension. You need superior training to act decisively when a baby’s life is on the line. Nine programs in California are accredited, but four rise to the top because of their facilities and reputation.

University of California, San Francisco

The neonatology department at UCSF balances patient care with innovation and research. The school’s neuro-intensive care nursery opened in 2008 for helping infants at risk of neurological injury. At UCSF, you don’t just study clinical practices; you study world health issues in relation to babies and join a team of world leaders in scientific discovery. Among the school’s values are respect for diversity and eliminating health care disparities among patients’ income levels. The program was ranked the best for pediatrics in California by "U.S. News & World Report" in 2014 and the medical school was ranked second in the world, according to the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Stanford School of Medicine

At Stanford University, you join a program committed to experimenting with the latest biomedical and clinical research techniques and dedicated to the highest standard of infant care. Doctors there are studying how mothers’ diets can influence birth defects and have collaborated on the fourth edition of a textbook on fetal and neonatal brain injuries. At the school’s Center for Pediatric and Perinatal Education, you’ll train so you’ll know what to do in the event of a neonatal emergency. The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford is ranked the seventh best children’s hospital in the nation and the best in California, according to "U.S. News & World Report."

University of California, Los Angeles

Medical students at the pediatric neonatology department at UCLA help care for newborns suffering from anything from minor ailments to congestive heart failure. The UCLA fellowship program runs three years and includes clinical time at the Mattel Children’s Hospital. The hospital admits about 600 patients a year to the intensive care unit and is the site of about 2,200 births, including many high-risk deliveries. The 13 medical doctors and five Ph.D.s affiliated with the school in 2014 were researching infant nutrition and metabolism, brain injuries, lung development and babies’ immune systems.

University of California, San Diego

Medical students at UC San Diego work at UC San Diego Medical Center, the site of 3,000 deliveries a year, up to 30 percent of which are high-risk deliveries. They also spend clinical time at UC San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital, the only facility in the area to provide the highest level of infant emergency care.The hospital has one of only 10 neuro-intensive care programs in the United States. It’s also one of the only hospitals in the nation with a SimBaby, a doll used to simulate infant emergencies. Plans were underway in 2014 for the new Jacobs Medical Center, which includes a section devoted to infant care.