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​AAP History

​The following is an excerpt from the book: Dedicated to the health of all children by Jeffrey P. Baker and Howard A. Pearson. 

The actual origin of the AAP can be traced to a fateful gathering on July 19, 1929 during the American Medical Association (AMA) Section on Diseases of Children meeting in Portland, OR. James W. Rosenfeld, MD invited all of the section attendees, about 35 pediatricians from around the country, to an elegant dinner at his home. William P. Lucas, MD, of San Francisco, CA, described some of what transpired at that dinner in a 1941 letter to AAP historian Ernest Caulfield, MD. Dr Lucas was seated at the same table with Drs Abt; C. Anderson Aldrich, of Chicago; and Bilderback, of Portland. It was not long after the first course of dinner that the subject of a new national pediatric society was raised. It was immediately evident that many pediatricians had been thinking the same way. They believed that such a new pediatric society should include most of the practicing pediatricians of the nation as members, and be a unified group of practitioners and academicians to further the field of pediatrics, and advance the medical are and social needs of children.

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​The discussion ultimately included all 35 of the group, most of whom supported the forming of a new society. Issues such as qualifications for possible charter members, the role of the new society in national child health and welfare programs and initial steps necessary for establishing the new society were discussed. It was suggested by Dr Abt that the name of the new society could be the American Academy of Pediatrics. It was also unanimously recommended that Clifford G. Grulee, MD, of Chicago should be asked to serve as the first executive secretary. Drs Abt and Aldrich agreed to meet with Dr Grulee, on their return to Chicago, to discuss this matter and to ask him to serve as secretary-treasurer of the projected society.

Lest it be thought that this watershed meeting was strictly business, Dr Pease wrote: “The food seems to have been of a quality that causes nostalgia after twenty years.” In addition, despite the fact that this was during the height of Prohibition, Dr Lucas commented: “Our discussions had little levity although Bacchus flowed freely his libations (good scotch) well into the wee hours of the night.”

The choice of Dr Grulee to spearhead the initiative was apparently unanimous. At the time, Dr Grulee was 50 years old. After he graduated cum laude from the Northwestern Medical School in 1903, his major academic appointments were at Rush Medical College, where he served as clinical professor of pediatrics and chairman of pediatrics between 1919 and 1941. He was elected president of the Section on Diseases of Children of the AMA in 1925, and served as editor in chief of the AMA American Journal of Diseases of Children (AIDC) from 1923 to 1955. Dr Grulee lived and practiced in Evanston, IL, for 37 years. He was involved in practically all activities that had to do with pediatrics and children in the Chicago area and was well-known an dhighly regarded both regionally and nationally.

When Drs Abt and Aldrich met with Dr Grulee in his office in Evanston they found that he had already been contemplating the formation of a new pediatric society and, in fact, had already drafted a letter that he was going to send to pediatricians in key locations around the nation calling for the formation of such a society. Despite the sketchiness of the planning thus far, he readily agreed to be secretary-treasurer and, from then on, too the lead. In all written accounts of the early days of the AAP, Dr Grulee’s role is described as being absolutely essential for the success of the project. He along with Drs Abt and Lucas, were the key figures in the founding of the AAP, but as Dr Lucas wrote later: “With no budget and no money in sight, Dr Grulee, with his vision and imagination, his dynamic force, threw himself into the organization, and the result is the work that Dr Grulee did and we were simply accessories to it.”

In December 1929, Drs Abt, Adrich, and Grulee met to draw up a detailed plan on organization. They drafted an outline of the purposes of the new society, which was mailed to pediatricians round the country in February 1930. Most of the recipients of the letter were receptive to the possibility of joining a new and expanded association devoted to children. The Central States Pediatric Society endorsed the organization as did the APS. In fact, 52 of the founders of the AAP, its first 8 presidents, and its first secretary-treasurer were members of the APS.

An organizational meeting for the new society was held in the library of Harper Hospital in Detroit, MI, on June 23 and 24, 1930, with a group of 35 pediatricians in attendance. The actual founding meeting took place on June 23. At that meeting, committees were established to lay the groundwork for the new society: to draft a constitution; develop a name for the new organization; establish rules for membership; establish procedures for running the central office; and more. The committees reported the next day, a constitution and bylaws were adopted, and the new organization was formally named the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additional committees were appointed, including a Committee on Medical Education and a Committee on Relation to the White House Conference and Publications.

A list of approximately 400 pediatricians was compiled and these pediatricians were invited to become charter members. Most of those invited were personally or by reputation known to the 35 pediatricians who attended the organizational meeting and compiled the mailing list. Officers for 1930 – 1931 were elected. The first president was Dr Abt and the initial vice president was John L. Morse, MD, who was a respected and admired pediatrician from Boston, MA.

An Executive Board was appointed, consisting of the chairmen of 4 regions into which the country was divided: Region I, the East, consisted of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Delaware; Region II, the South, consisted of the states south of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, including Texas; Region III, the Midwest, included the states between Ohio and the Rocky Mountains; and Region IV, the West, included the states between the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast.

The AAP was officially incorporated in July 1930 in Dr Grulee’s home state of Illinois and the central office was established in Evanston. The officers and Executive Board met again in February and April 1931. At the February meeting, a formal statement of the purposes of the AAP was issued:

  1.     To create reciprocal and friendly relations with all professional and lay organizations that are interested in the health and protection of children.

  2.     To foster and encourage pediatric investigation, both clinically and in the laboratory, by individuals and groups.​

At the time of the first AAP Annual Meeting in Atlantic City, NJ, held on June 12 and 13, 1931, there were 304 enrolled members of the AAP. There were members in many of the states, making the AAP, from the beginning, a national organization. Ninety-three members, including at least 3 women, attended the Atlantic City meeting, which was highlighted by the presidential address of Dr Abt, in which he stated: “It is our desire to build an association so that every qualified pediatrician could seek membership. It will be necessary for the Academy to interest itself in undergraduate and postgraduate instruction and to exert a regulatory influence over hospitals. As an organization we should assist and lead in public health measurers, in social reform, and in hospital and educational administration as they affect the welfare of children.” ​

Additional Resources

    Hill, Lee Forrest. The American Academy of Pediatrics - Its Growth and Development. Pediatrics. 1948; 1 (1): 1-7.
    Sisson, Warren R. The American Academy of Pediatrics' Place in American Medicine. Pediatrics. 1950; 5 (1): 1-6.
    Beaven, Paul W. The Origin and Significance of the Academy's Della Robbia Insignia. Pediatrics. 1956; 17 (5): 765-769.
    Shaw, Edward B. The Children's Bureau and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics. 1962; 29 (4): 515-516.
    Hughes, James G. Conception and Creation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics. 1993; 92 (3): 469-470.

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