Chairman Kanner: Probably everybody in this audience has heard the old quip about the difference between a general practitioner and a specialist. The former, according to the jesters. knows a little about many things; as time goes on, he knows less and less about more and more, until he reaches a point when he knows nothing about everything. The specialist, in reverse, is said to know much about a circumscribed area of medicine; eventually, he knows more and more about less and less, until in the end he knows everything about nothing.
The pediatrician is the only medical man to whom this jocularly exaggerated pseudo-definition cannot possibly apply. His specialty is based not on a specific organ system or methodology but on an age group with all of its structural, functional, environmental, prophylactic and therapeutic concerns. He has thus the unique distinction of being a specialist and a general practitioner at the same time. His field is limited only to the extent that he courteously dismisses his patients when they reach the threshold of adulthood; it is broad enough to encompass every conceivable aspect of his patients' lives during infancy, childhood and adolescence.
The resulting multiplicity of interests, which is truly remarkable, has its rewards and its complications. The pediatrician has been widely accepted as a key figure to whom people turn with their puzzlements about their children's physical health, developmental pace, and mode of behavior. If a poll were taken as to whom the man-in-the-street regards as the logical adviser of parents, the overwhelming majority would undoubtedly name the pediatrician.
- Copyright © 1953 by the American Academy of Pediatrics