Before being accepted by their own
colleagues, pediatric surgeons found an
unlikely home within the Academy. In
late 1947, the Academy established an
affiliate fellow category to expand membership to physicians in allied branches of
medicine who cared for children.
The following year — nearly 70 years
ago — the first three sections were founded, one of them the Section on Surgery.
At that time, “child surgeons” were
not welcome members of the surgical
community. Many traditional surgeons
frowned on the splinter categories pop-
ping up in their field. They didn’t believe
children required special surgical exper-
That attitude was not shared by Herbert E. Coe, M.D., FAAP (1888-1968),
AAP leaders and others that pediatric surgeons deserved recognition within the
Early attempts to gain a section had
been denied. Eventually, Dr. Coe was
placed on a committee to look into
the matter. He identified surgeons who
agreed to have their names submitted to
the AAP executive board as potential affiliate members.
During the business session of the
AAP annual meeting in 1948, Dr. Coe
addressed then-AAP President John A.
Toomey, M.D., FAAP:
“Mr. President, the development of the
Section on Surgery is a logical part of the
present rapid expansion of the activities
of the Academy,” Dr. Coe began. He
mentioned how surgeons, some already
elected as associate members, participat-
ed in roundtable discussions. “They have
given us something worthwhile,” he not-
ed, lamenting that they “had no integral
part in the Academy.”
“With the development of children’s
surgery through this Academy, we can
give better care to children everywhere,
and the care of children in surgical mat-
ters will reach a higher plane,” he em-
Dr. Coe has been lauded for almost
singlehandedly jump-starting the section. He served as the first chair of its
steering committee (later called executive
committee), from 1948-’54; was instrumental in getting surgical topics included
in AAP meetings; and authored the first
article on pediatric surgery in 1932 for
The Journal of Pediatrics, then the official
AAP journal ( http://bit.ly/2hsEPmM).
New members of the AAP Section on
Surgery had to be invited and certify that
they devoted 90% of their surgical practices to the care of children.
“The Academy provided a home and
meeting place for the pediatric surgeons,
and they helped define them as a specialty,” said Michael D. Klein, M.D., FAAP,
the first pediatric surgeon to run for AAP
president. “They were very bold in making the statement that children are not
just little adults — they need specialists
to care for them.
“And that battle went on in surgery
for many years until finally the American
College of Surgeons and the American
Board of Surgeons recognized it was a
specialty,” said Dr. Klein, who also has
chaired the Section on Surgery Executive
Today, the section has more than 600
members despite the existence of pediatric
surgical associations such as the American Pediatric Surgical Association. In addition, section members serve as liaisons
to other AAP sections and committees.
The section also sends representatives to
outside organizations and has special educational programs at every AAP National
Conference. In 1999, a Surgical Advisory
Panel was created to represent the surgical
subspecialty sections within the Academy
(anesthesiology, cardiology, etc.).
AAP oral histories ( http://bit.ly/1D
votCj) capture some of the early struggles
of pediatric surgeons in the U.S. Many
of them were recipients of the William E.
Ladd Medal, the section’s highest honor
named for the father of pediatric surgery
in North America.
— Alyson Sulaski Wyckoff