Contemporary Pediatrics at 30

January 1, 2014

Founding Editor-in-Chief Frank Oski’s vision lives on.

 

September 2014 will mark 30 years since the first edition of Contemporary Pediatrics appeared in the mailboxes of pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, and pediatric residents. In the inaugural issue, founding Editor-in-Chief Frank A. Oski, MD, pledged, “This new journal will emphasize the recent and the practical-the kind of information you can use with your patients immediately.”

In order to remain true to his promise of relevance and utility, Frank assembled some of the most provocative, creative, and wise pediatricians he could imagine to serve as members of the Editorial Board. The Editorial Board reflected Frank’s connection to his mentors; his colleagues in academic pediatrics; and his former students, residents, and fellows who had become trusted colleagues. The journal reflected his 3 passions in pediatrics: Education, Evidence/Research, and Advocacy.

The Editorial Board was made up of a cadre of the best and the brightest minds in general and subspecialty pediatrics. Frank Oski chose the initial and subsequent members of the board because their commitment to education and research was equal to his own. Their goal was to make the latest data and clinical innovations accessible to community-based pediatricians in a meaningful and immediate way. Bench to bedside was the mantra.

What was only murmured was the necessity of questioning scientific and medical dogma. Frank’s students, residents, and fellows were familiar with his occasional contempt for “authority” because authority could be an opiate that stifled investigation. His hope was that Contemporary Pediatrics would be a journal that would break down barriers between academia and community pediatrics and provided all practitioners with new evidence to support their daily practice. In that regard, Contemporary Pediatrics has succeeded under the editorial direction of both Frank Oski and his successor, Julia McMillan, MD. Practitioners, attending physicians, and residents refer to published algorithms and articles to inform patient care 30 years after this “throwaway” first emerged.

The new journal and its Editorial Board were an extension of Frank Oski’s lifelong commitment to teaching, but it was also a platform for reminding pediatricians of our collective responsibility for advocating on behalf of children. In a 2004 tribute to 3 Contemporary Pediatrics colleagues who had died too soon, former senior editor Judith Asch-Goodkin described Frank as having a “grand capacity for outrage” at a society that allowed too many children to live in poverty and suffer the poorer health outcomes associated with unequal access to care.

I knew that outrage intimately and learned from it on a daily basis because Frank Oski was my father.

The editorial page of Contemporary Pediatrics became my father’s bully pulpit. It was a place for introducing not only the causes and consequences of very real threats to child health, but also a vision of a future where those threats could be conquered. Whether the issue was his tireless advocacy of breastfeeding (and against the marketing of formula to the public) or the perpetual funding of the defense industry that drew dollars away from evidence-based social programs that supported a better future for children, my father offered alternatives: incentives from private insurers; Medicaid and WIC for exclusive and/or extended breastfeeding; and Children’s Bonds rather than War or Defense Bonds to support social programs with a track record of success, such as universal access to prenatal care and Head Start. His success at provoking a response was evidenced by the small but significant numbers of angry “Letters to the Editor." There were always supporters, but it was the letters from those who disagreed with him that he loved to share. These letters were proof that his ideas had been digested and that he had challenged readers.

Not all my father’s provocations were introduced in an effort to spur action. After Education, Evidence, and Advocacy came Irreverence. His jokes were often just plain outrageous or awful, but they grabbed your attention. He inserted his jokes as frequently into his monthly editorials as into his public presentations, and they had the desired effect. He was the inveterate class clown, but for the 64 too-short years in which he lived, he helped move the dialogue forward on so many issues that remain vital and central to children’s health.

If he were alive today, I shudder to imagine his tirade for allowing the safety net to develop more gaping holes, for not staying far ahead of the antivaccine movement, and for not doing more as a professional community to ensure universal access to care for all. He would undoubtedly be full of praise for many of the accomplishments of pediatrics, but his bottom line might still be to “question authority.”

Thirty years after the first issue of Contemporary Pediatrics and 17 years after his death, my father’s vision lives on. He ended his first editorial by saying, “We’ll try to keep you moving in the right direction.” I know that he would be proud of what this journal has achieved.

DR OSKI is staff pediatrician, Department of Pediatrics, Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, Arizona. She is also a member of Contemporary Pediatrics' Editorial Advisory Board.