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The story of MassGeneral Hospital for Children begins long before the hospital received its current name; it begins 200 years ago, with the establishment of Massachusetts General Hospital.
The first child admitted to Mass General was an 11-year-old girl, brought in December 20, 1821, just three months after the arrival of the first patient. At that time no separate pediatric service existed, but children were often victims of diseases that were rampant in the region. With this in mind, Fritz Bradley Talbot, MD, founded the Children’s Medical Service at Mass General in 1910.
Talbot’s challenges were great. Parents were hesitant to have their children cared for in a hospital, a place at that time considered for the poor and destitute. Unforeseen events such as war and the Great Depression significantly impacted the nation and the development of pediatric care at Mass General.Nevertheless, the extraordinary vision and perseverance of the hospital’s pediatric caregivers enabled the Children’s Medical Service to grow and flourish. The service grew to include the complete range of pediatric services, offering improved, family-centered care. The creation of a pediatric surgery division in 1962 paved the way for additional medical innovations including tissue engineering and minimally invasive procedures. The Children’s Medical Service was renamed the Children’s Service to accommodate the Division of Surgery.
In 1999, the Children’s Service was renamed MassGeneral Hospital for Children, and today the hospital serves more than 170,000 children every year through 50 medical specialties and 15 surgical services.
Though many individuals contributed to the formation and growth of MassGeneral Hospital for Children, we’ve chosen to highlight the seven founding chiefs of the pediatric service and three founders of the pediatric surgery division. Fritz Bradley Talbot, MD (Chief of Children’s Medical Service: 1910-1932) The founding chief of the Children’s Medical Service at Mass General, Talbot promoted the development of coordinated home care by both nursing and social services. With his team he developed the term “allergy” and his research of children’s responses to food and skin tests became the worldwide standard and the basis of the allergy-immunology specialty. Talbot initiated an ambulance service for children and, with the aid of his wife, a directory of wet nurses, lauded as both a resource for mothers unable to breastfeed their babies and an employment opportunity for women. Talbot explored treatments for epilepsy, including the benefits of a ketogenic diet--a diet high in fats. He was active nationally in advocating for safe treatment of pediatric patients and advocated for a team approach to treatment. In his 22 years as chief, the uses of new technologies such as X-Rays and measurements of body chemistry changed the way physicians understood and treated diseases.
Allan Macy Butler, MD (Chief of Children’s Medical Service: 1942-1960)Butler was not only a consummate physician scientist, teacher-mentor and administrator, but also an advocate for the rights of man. A dedicated humanist, Butler aimed to better the lives of both children and adults. Just before becoming chief at Mass General, Butler organized the White Cross, a prepaid health insurance program linking 25,000 patients with 150 Mass General physicians. Butler also established a laboratory at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital to identify pharmaceuticals that could prevent malaria and, with government funding, developed protocols to establish optimal life-raft rations for those whose boats were torpedoed or whose planes were shot down in the Atlantic Ocean. Butler was also placed in charge of Mass General’s Clinical Chemistry Laboratories. By 1950 he had made significant contributions, including discovering the use of potassium in correction of dehydration and the association between renal disease and hypertension. In 1952 Butler founded the Ross Conferences, an annual research conference sponsored by Ross Laboratories that covered advances meant to better the lives of children. Butler’s many accomplishments as chief are especially remarkable because he assumed his role during the Great Depression.
R. Alan B. Ezekowitz, MBChB, DPhil, FAAP (Chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children: 1995-2006)Ezekowitz came to the Mass General from Children’s Hospital Boston as an internationally recognized investigator in the field of innate immunology. He made significant contributions to our understanding of vascular malformations and the role of the innate immune system in host protection. He recruited Howard Weinstein, MD, to lead the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology and Emmett Schmidt, MD, as director of the Residency Training Program. A signficant effort was made to bring together pediatric care in affiliated community hospitals and health centers, the Newborn Services at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) to provide seamless primary and specialty care for all infants and children in the Partners network. During his tenure the name of the Children’s Service changed to MGHfC, and was designated the tertiary service of the Partners Health Care System for pediatrics. The administrative offices of MGHfC relocated to 175 Cambridge Street, with all division chiefs within the same building and on the same floor for enhanced collaboration.
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