The Rise and Development of Pediatrics as a Distinct Branch in Medicine




Inthavong, Haleigh

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While a variety of natural philosophers in medicine discussed female anatomy and childbirth, there existed a paucity of literature surrounding children’s health and diseases. This thesis examines how pediatrics came to be a distinct branch of medicine within the United States. It was not until the later eighteenth century that major advancements and advocacy programs for quality healthcare in support of children emerged shifting the perspective many had towards the young. Prior to the nineteenth century, children’s health was commonly perceived as an extension of obstetrics and gynecology. Rising infant mortality rates during the nineteenth century was one element that spurred scholars to continue understanding childhood diseases in an effort to improve how infants were nourished and managed. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries laid the foundation for how children were medically treated distinctly from adults, and the establishment of the children’s hospital played a significant role in illustrating the need for more specialized care. Abraham Jacobi played an instrumental role in initiating pediatric teaching within universities, and his extensive professional presence spanned from the classroom to the hospital. Jacobi understood children to have a distinct anatomy and physiology, and he accepted numerous leadership positions within prominent pediatric organizations throughout his lifetime. With the rise of specialization during the early twentieth century came the establishment of the American Board of Pediatrics, which reflected the reality of pediatric medicine being a specialty in its own right as it pertained to individuals under the age of eighteen.