Viewpoint: Twenty-five years of Contemporary Pediatrics

January 1, 2009

EIC Julia McMillan discusses the last 25 years in pediatric medicine

In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Contemporary Pediatrics, members of the Editorial Board have agreed to review articles published during the publication's first year and to provide commentaries reviewing the progress (or lack of progress) over the intervening years.

The list of article topics from that first year includes many of the conditions and issues that continue to concern us today, such as medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, counseling adolescents, screening for iron deficiency, treatment for asthma, and presentation of viral infections.

During that first year, wise and expert pediatricians like Lewis Barness, MD, Barton Schmitt, MD, and Morris Green, MD, provided guidance about initiation of solid foods for infants (Barness), babies who won't sleep (Schmitt), and effective interviewing techniques (Green).

The September 1984 article by Sylvan Stool, MD, describing office tympanometry was written when a diagnosis of acute otitis media was accompanied by considerable risk of invasive Hemophilus influenzae type b and Streptococcus pneumoniae infection, both substantially reduced in 2009. In the July 1985 issue, Andrew Margileth, MD, and Ted Hadfield, PhD, posed the question, "Could the infection be cat scratch fever?" They could not have known that 25 years later Bartonella henselae would have been found to be the cause of cat scratch fever as well as of bacillary angiomatosis, a condition described in severely immunocompromised individuals, particularly those with AIDS. And surely Lee Rowe, MD, author of an article titled "Hearing loss: The profound benefits of early diagnosis," (October 1985) could not have predicted that 25 years later neonatal hearing screening would be a reality throughout the US.

The editorial line-up in 1984/85 included discussion of controversies that have not been entirely resolved to this day, including the question of whether early urinary tract infections lead to long-term renal damage, developing a response for parents who ask about the influence of television on their children, and discussion of the best treatment for immune-mediated thrombocytopenic purpura.

A review of the list of authors during that first year is a reminder of the expertise of contributors to Contemporary Pediatrics, even during its infancy. William Balistreri, MD, former member of the Contemporary Pediatrics Editorial Board and now Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pediatrics, wrote about the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease; Ann Gershon, MD, who ushered varicella vaccine into routine use in the US despite persistent fears and doubts, wrote predicting universal varicella immunization; and Julius Richmond, MD, who, among many other accomplishments was the first national director of Project Head Start, co-authored an article titled, "When somatic complaints mask psychosocial disorders."

Some of those early authors who taught us so much are no longer living. Richmond died earlier this year at the age of 91. Frank Oski, MD, founding Editor-in-Chief of Contemporary Pediatrics, and Walter Tunnessen, MD, clinician extraordinaire and editor of the Pediatric Puzzler for over a decade, contributed many articles during the early years of the publication. It is because of their leadership and that of the early editorial staff, including Jeffrey Forster, the late Cathy Brown, Judith Asch-Goodkin, and many others, that Contemporary Pediatrics has survived to see its 25th birthday.

So we begin the second 25 years with a look backwards. In this issue we'll reprise and review an article by David Bell, MD, and consider the new and the old regarding Kawasaki disease. A preview: there is progress, but important questions remain. Maybe in 25 more years there will be more answers.

Dr. McMillan, editor-in-chief of Contemporary Pediatrics, is professor of pediatrics, vice chair for pediatric education, and director of the pediatric residency training program, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.