After 48 years, The Compleat Pediatricians have taken in their shingle. The discussion group, formed in 1957 [“A Running Conversation About Children,” Spring 1999] to give young doctors insight into the psychological and social factors affecting their patients, has called it a day.
The group was dealt a blow when founding member Albert J. Solnit, M.D., HS ’52, of the Child Study Center, died in a car accident in 2002. Solnit had remained a guiding force while John E. Schowalter, M.D., HS ’61, served as the group’s consulting psychiatrist. Schowalter’s retirement from the faculty last year precipitated the group’s official end, but he said that the timing felt “natural” for other reasons. Most members had retired from practice, and for those who continue to see patients, years of case reviews and frank discussion had done their job. “I finally feel competent to help families with behavioral issues,” Richard L. Shelling, M.D., HS ’59, said with a smile.
When the group started meeting in the 1950s, Shelling and his contemporaries knew how to fight childhood infectious diseases that were all but eradicated by immunizations but had not learned to give “anticipatory guidance,” advice about child development and matters as profound as death of a sibling and as commonplace as sleep disturbances. Weekly discussions led to a psychoanalytic understanding of the problems, and input from psychiatrists helped them help families resolve their issues.
While the original group has disbanded, physicians locally and nationally have embraced its ideas and its model.
Around the country the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services funds “collaborative office rounds” on The Compleat Pediatricians model—discussions involving pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers—at 12 academic medical centers. And another group of pediatricians continues to meet at Yale.
For Shelling, teaching students in the office takes the place of the group’s meetings. “I want them to learn something about well child care and anticipatory guidance, which can help parents understand normal behavior and hopefully help prevent misunderstandings between parents and their children,” he said.