A physician who specializes in the treatment of children from birth through adolescence.
A pediatrician is a physician who has taken extra training in the development and diseases of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults through age 21. Parents are advised to begin the process of selecting a pediatrician about three months before their baby is due to be born. Most obstetricians will assist with the referral, and the American Academy of Pediatrics also offers a referral service. Other parents may also have recommendations and advice to offer. Because new parents will rely on their pediatrician for support and advice as well as medical care, it is important that they feel comfortable with the personality and style of the pediatrician they choose. Many parents interview more than one pediatrician before making the final selection. It is necessary to designate a pediatrician before the baby is born, so that he or she can examine the newborn in the hospital shortly after birth.
Pediatricians receive extensive training that begins with four years of medical school. A three-year residency—special training in pediatrics—follows. (The resident works under the supervision of an experienced physician or team of physicians to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to diagnose and treat childhood illnesses, diseases, and conditions.) Following the completion of the residency, the newly trained pediatrician is eligible to take the written examination offered by the American Board of Pediatrics. When the pediatrician passes the certification exam, he or she receives a certificate—which most will frame and display on the wall of their office—and earns the right to use the
Some pediatricians then elect to pursue more study in a specific area of pediatrics—known as a subspecialty. Subspecialties include: adolescent medicine; allergy/immunology; ambulatory pediatrics; behavioral/developmental pediatrics; cardiology; child development; community pediatrics; critical care; dermatology; developmental biology; developmental disabilities; emergency medicine; endocrinology (glands and diabetes); gastroenterology; general academic pediatrics/epidemiology; genetics/dysmorphology (inherited diseases); hematology/oncology (blood disorders/childhood cancers); immunology; infectious disease; metabolism; neonatal/perinatal medicine; nephrology (kidneys); neurology (nervous system); nutrition; pathology; pharmacology/toxicology; public health/preventive medicine; pulmonology; radiology; rheumatology; and teratology.
Parents may also need to call on a medical specialist—such as an ophthalmologist or surgeon—who has received special training in pediatrics.
Pediatricians are called on to provide a variety of services to families, including diagnosing illness, prescribing treatment, counseling families, monitoring the growing child's physical, mental, and social development, and advising adolescents on a range of emotional and social issues. Pediatricians may also participate in research, advocacy for social and legislative changes to benefit all children, and in public education on issues like nutrition, injury and disease prevention, and in providing guidelines for safe participation in athletics.
Brazelton, T. Berry. Doctor and Child. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1978.
Markel, Howard. The Practical Pediatrician: The A to Z Guide to Your Child's Health, Behavior, and Safety. New York: W.H. Freeman and Co., 1996.
Nathanson, Laura Walther. The Portable Pediatrician's Guide to Kids 5-12. New York: HarperPerennial, 1996.
Shelov, Steven P. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. Chicago: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1991.
Greenspan, Peter, and Suzanne Levert. "Pediatricians and Parents." Parenting 10, December-January 1996, pp. 45+.
Koop, C. Everett. "The Tiniest Patients." Newsweek special edition, Spring-Summer 1997, p. 51.
Shifrin, Donald L. "Choosing Your Baby's Doctor." American Baby 58, February 1996, pp. 16+.
Spock, Benjamin. "How to Pick Your Child's First Doctor." Parenting 10, April 1996, pp. 112+
American Academy of Pediatrics
Address: 141 Northwest Point Blvd.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098
Telephone: (847) 228-5005
FAX: (847) 228-5097
(Offers a pediatrician referral service. Parents may request a referral by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope, specifying geographic area and pediatric specialty, if appropriate.)